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In the Media

article imageOp-Ed: Antarctic ice cap 'growing' and aren’t theories misunderstood?

By Paul Wallis
Apr 19, 2009 in Science
This is one for the thinkers: The Antarctic is losing big amounts of ice through calving, but the ice is being more than replaced by cooling elsewhere. It’s basic thermodynamics of ice, really. The surprise is that nobody’s making a big deal about it.
I'm not actually offering an opinion here. The simplistic non global warming, and the simple global warming theories are so simple they can't be anything but wrong. I prefer to look at facts and possibilities.
The current situation is that the Wilkins ice shelf has been acting like fridge defrosting, while other sectors have in fact been cooling. The net effect is that the Antarctic sea ice situation is stable, or a bit bigger, after the last few decades.
There are some technical elements in this situation which need explanation here.
One of the Global Warming scenarios is that desalination of ocean waters will increase ice cap sizes, a sort of “reverse cycle.” Because ambient and water temperatures are slower to warm, the seasonal “snap freeze.”
This effect is considered to have the potential to trigger climate change of another kind: A northern Ice Age, caused by the failure of the Gulf Stream, as the thermal properties of the warm currents on the eastern seaboard change.
The Antarctic effect, however, is sending mixed signals. Unlike the Arctic, the Antarctic is a land mass. It contains 90 per cent of the world’s ice, and 80 per cent of the world’s fresh water. A desalination effect takes place during the calving of ice.
However, despite some spectacular calvings, drilling of ice cores at Australia’s Antarctic base Davis has established that the “fast ice” is in fact thicker than the average since the 1950s.
This is where the mixed signals cut in.
(This case demonstrates where agenda based theory always fails. I think that the problem with the debate has been too many people offering opinions where the tendency is to elevate opinions above facts that haven’t been fully studied. This is much too complex for guesswork, let alone mindless political point scoring among the rubble of the global environment.)
Both poles have shown a tendency to produce local effects which are outside the models. The Arctic produced a sudden series of local events which were later shown to be a result of movements of pack ice, not a melt. Thick sea ice opened up areas which have been frozen in human records. The actual melt in the north is also producing the apparent contradiction of opening up open sea areas, while land based ice is behaving much like the Antarctic ice, with some increases. The correlation is that the thermal patterns of ice on land masses are naturally different from ice in the open sea.
The Antarctic, however, is also producing some oddities. An increase in ice depth, not all that surprisingly, requires more water. The figures given by the Davis research indicate that ice thickness is 1.89 metres, as distinct from the average of 1.67 recorded since the 1950s.
Meaning that:
(a) Either more freezing is occurring over time, a cumulative increase, although that hasn’t been suggested by the scientists at Davis as a behavioral key. Obviously it’s possible.
(b) The Antarctic currents have been transporting fresh water from the Wilkins and similar high melt areas and refreezing them away from the melt zones.
(c) An unknown cycle is creating a freeze boom and bust over periods like 50 years in Antarctica. (In which case Greenland, being a land mass, should show some similar results, you’d think.)
(d) Thermodynamics of freezing around land masses are capable of producing macro effects like this, which haven’t been previously recorded, and are therefore outside the scope of existing theory. (Not unlikely, because nobody was looking for effects like this, based on the simpler modes of dealing with melts.)
You see why I’m in no hurry to come up with an opinion. Nor should anybody else rush to judgment, because in point of fact this phenomenon proves both sides wrong.
Yes, there is melt, no, it's not behaving the way anyone thought it would.
Yes, there are climatic effects, no, they're not following predictions, except in the most general sense, like "severe weather", etc.
This is “How long is all the string produced by the string factory?”, as climate science. What this illustrates beyond doubt is that the macrocosm of the ice melts is highly complex, and local factors have roles which aren’t fully understood.
It seems that even the desalination theory, which is one of the more fundamental concepts of the ice melts, will now have to be reworked.
Anyway, this needn't bother the large numbers of utterly useless people who've made profitable careers out of environmental disasters. if there's no problem, everyone can go back to dealing with the millions of tons of toxic emissions from obsolete technology which have made the whole population of Earth into passive smokers. Happy?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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