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Aug 23, 2012

Antarctic melt alarm as scientists find 'very unusual' warming

Scientists have drilled 364 metres into Antarctic ice to complete the first ever comprehensive temperature record -- finding proof of "very unusual" and dramatic warming, reports Simon Copland of ANU.


Scientists have drilled 364 metres into ice to complete the first ever comprehensive temperature record of the Antarctic Peninsula — and they’ve found evidence of “very unusual” and dramatic warming over the last century.

The collapse of ice shelves in Antarctica has seen some of the most dramatic images of human-induced climate change. The collapse of the Prince Gustav and Larsen A Ice Shelves in 1995 and then the collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelve in 2002 stunned scientists, and provided vivid images of the potential future of the southern continent.

New research released today has explained the extent of warming in Antarctic Peninsula, painting a picture of a future of rapid warming and melting ice. The research showed that the Peninsula has seen a rapid warming over the past 100 years, but that this has also come on top 600 years of more gradual, natural warming in the region.

The research was conducted by an international team of climate scientists, including Dr Nerilie Abram from the Australian National University. The team drilled a 364 metre long ice core spanning thousands of years on James Ross Island. Ice cores show scientists the incremental buildup of the annual layers of snow, providing a time-capsule that shows the climate record over the age of the core. James Ross Island is adjacent to the Larsen A & B and Prince Gustav ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula, which have both seen large collapses recently.

Dr Abram says the warming over the past 100 years has been dramatic. “The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming places on Earth at the moment,” Dr Abram said. “The last century of warming has been unusually rapid with the mean temperature increasing by about one and a half degrees — one of the fastest temperature increases seen in the ice core record.”

This warming comes on top of 600 years of previous natural warming found in the ice core. The leader of the research expedition, Dr Robert Mulvaney from the British Antarctic Survey, said: “The exceptionally fast warming over the last 100 years came on top of a slower natural climate warming that began around 600 years ago — well before the industrial revolution — so it is possible that we are now seeing the combination of natural and man-made warming in this area.”

What this means is that climate change is adding significant extra pressure to the Antarctic Peninsula ice sheets that were already seeing some strain from the natural warming in the region. Dr Abram says this could potentially have a huge impact in other parts of the continent in the future. “Our ice core record, which spans over thousands of years shows that there is a very close link between ice shelf stability and temperature. So if warming continues we can expect that ice shelves will become less stable,” she said.

Dr Abram says this could have a big impact in the parts of Antarctica that lie to the south and west of the Antarctic Peninsula. These areas have seen more modest warming over the past 100 years, but that that is beginning to change.

“The ice shelves along the west coast are showing signs of becoming less stable, but we haven’t seen the big collapses that we’ve seen on the Antarctic Peninsula so far,” she said. “The big concern about that area is that it is where the West Antarctic ice sheet is. The amount of ice being lost there is accelerating and this is contributing to global sea level rise.”

It paints a worrying picture, according to Abram: “The main finding of our research is that warming as fast as this is very unusual. We should be very concerned about that.”



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34 thoughts on “Antarctic melt alarm as scientists find ‘very unusual’ warming

  1. wilful

    Guys we’re all on the internet here, can’t you provide at least one link to the research?

  2. floorer

    Hey Wilful, I just chose this line out of the article “Dr Robert Mulvaney from the British Antarctic Survey” then copy/ right click /hit search with google and you’ll probably find what you’re looking for.

  3. izatso?

    ……….. a frozen record of irrefutable climate change history ……… and not one fool down there with their head in the sand ………. Cool !


    It’s 100% certain that a horde of semi-literates will soon launch a hate campaign against these scientists and thereby fix the problem of climate change.

  5. Microseris

    Correlates with what has just been published about the big melt occurring in the Artic and Greenland.

  6. kakadu

    No, the semi-literates won’t even know about the research if the shock jocks don’t mention it

  7. Owen Gary

    Has anyone told Phoney yet.

  8. Owen Gary

    I can see it now, living in “Waterworld” with ole Phoney standing on a pontoon with a megaphone shouting to all & sundry ” dont worry it’s just a bit of inclement weather!

  9. izatso?

    Owen Gary, a Wormtongue, being ‘Sh*rk Sh*t’, would never get as far as the pontoon. Just a Phoney Phantasy, hey …….

  10. AR

    What is the point of all this facts & reality stuff? It doesn’t affect the audience of the shoutjocks or the “readers” of Mudorc’s mendacity machine and, unfortunately, they vote, indeed believe that they are obliged to do so.
    Poor Bugger, my Country.

  11. izatso?

    AR, the first point should be to pull them up on the lies and mendacity, like Leigh Sales on Wormtongue….. and secondly, to do it again. Had a good day today. Julia Flogged the Journo Flack Pack like the Champ she is …… T. Abbott/Wormtongue will not be seriously interviewed for some time. An Indelible Day ! And a Troll Free Day …….

  12. James K

    And yet no comments here by S Blake and her little group of Liberal party bloggers….. Interesting.
    I guess some facts are just really really hard to refute. so better to completely ignore them and hope they sort of just… go away!

  13. sherman herman

    obviously the bildebergers are down there with an industrial heater melting it all

  14. Mike Flanagan

    The mendacious Murdocracy are failing on all fronts. A recent survey by the Griffith University of over 3000 indicates that 74% of the public agree that climate change is both happening and is
    caused by humans.
    There has hardly been a murmur or any coverage of the results of this poll in any of the MSM.

  15. Hamis Hill

    You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.
    All this anti-knowledge stuff going on seems to be about maintaining some sort of “unfreedom”.
    The conservation of slavery perhaps?
    Anti- knowledge, anti-science, pro-slavery and finally Anti-Christ? (See first sentence)
    Know your enemy. Know yourself. One hundred battles. One hundred victories.
    Wu Sun Tsu “The Art Of War” Happy Kamfphing!

  16. wilful

    Hamis Hill, the word you are looking for is “agnotology”.


  17. Hamis Hill

    Well done WILFUL, no wonder they want to slow down the NBN, too much information on the internet. Thanks.

  18. Rob Denne

    An interesting survey statistic, what worries me however is, where are the other 26% of the surveyed population obtaining their misinformation from? Does a quarter of the Australian population really believe that climate change is bullsh#t made up by left wing radicals!?

  19. Ian

    Our government and opposition obviously don’t really believe the science either, else they would long ago have done something (and I don’t mean this latest, reluctant non effort that has recently been enacted) amidst all the doom and gloom nonsense by Abbott.

    Tones old chap just you talk about doom and gloom; just wait about 10 years or so and then you will have all the doom and gloom you could ever wish for… not that you will realize it even then.

  20. Chad

    Ok, Now for some facts. The ice core data also shows, selectively omitted from this article as it would reduce it’s scaremongering effect, that temperatures in the region during the past 10,000 years have often been higher than they are today, and that warming of the sort seen there recently has also occurred in the pre-industrial past. These ice cores were extracted by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey.

    Also an important point for you cherry pickers, the warming has increased over the last 50 years in the Antarctic Peninsula BUT, it is bucking the overall Antarctic trend which has seen vast new expanses of sea ice appear around the coasts of the austral continent and the continuing increase in ice thickness in the ice shelf.

    As this information is counterproductive to alarmism campaigns, I can understand why it did not appear in Simon’s article.

    Quotes from the Nature paper by the British Antarctic Survey:

    “The high rate of warming over the past century is unusual (but not unprecedented) in the context of natural climate variability over the past two millennia.”

    “Repeating the temperature trend analysis using 50-year windows confirms the finding that the rapidity of recent Antarctic Peninsula warming is unusual but not unprecedented … natural millennial-scale climate variability has resulted in warming on the eastern Antarctic Peninsula that has been ongoing for a number of centuries and had left ice shelves in this area vulnerable to collapse.”

    “There is evidence for instability of the Larsen A ice shelf between 3,800 and 1,400 yr [ago]. Farther south again, the Larsen B ice shelf probably remained intact throughout the Holocene, although there is evidence that the ice shelf was progressively weakened by melting … temperatures similar to present occurred in this region for much of the Holocene, resulting in a regime in which ice shelves were only transient features along the northern-most part of the eastern Antarctic Peninsula and were undergoing decay farther to the south. An additional new perspective is that recent warming to levels consistent with the mid Holocene meant that the ice shelves along the northeastern Peninsula were poised for the succession of collapses observed there over recent decades.”

    What this episode does show is just how blindly and unquestioningly the general scientific and media communities believe in the idea of carbon-driven climate apocalypse: the mindset of the person who wrote this article and the various journalists who have uncritically reprocessed it is more reminiscent of religion than of science.

  21. Ian

    Well Chad, tell me, what conclusions do the members of the British Antarctic Survey draw from their findings? Are they claiming that they indicate that the warming and melting we are experiencing now is natural and not caused by humans? If so have these claims been supported by other scientists? Give us some names.

    I have to ask you also: – 1) are you sure it is not you who is doing the cherry-picking and 2) should we not be scared and should we continue basically doing nothing as we have to date?

    The question I ask myself continually is why people like you are so persistent in your efforts to cast doubt on the science which overwhelmingly support the case that global warming is now human induced and a very, very serious problem.

    I can only agree with Naomi Oreske’s conclusions made in her book “Merchants of Doubt” that it is an ideological thing do do with free market fundamentalism and aversion to government regulation of any kind. After all it’s the same people behind all this doubt that fought against tobacco regulations, tried to undermine actions to combat the destruction of the ozone layer etc. It’s either some sort of ideological thing or money that is driving this denial industry.

  22. Hamis Hill

    It is very difficult to win a scientific argument by pretending that there is no science called geology.
    Why is there always a rush to dismiss geological evidence of past climate change?
    How about tying in, for example, the ten thousand year drought, ending just five thousand years ago, which the First Peoples survived?
    Or the prior climate of higher rainfall and colder temperatures which must have been very much like the Elysian Fields of Greek mythology.
    Clue: get a satellite photo of the Riverina and see traced out there between the Murray and the Murrumbidgee the one kilometre wide dried stream bed of a vast and fast flowing river with very few meanders. Then for Gaia’s sake go and pick up an actual textbook on Gaiaology.
    Yes, Geology, “an evil conspiracy theory aiming to destroy the planet”. Yeah Right. Grow up!

  23. izatso?

    ….. the map that changed the world – winchester …… establishment debunks unwelcome new findings, then does some digging of its own, comes up with …… ? fresh findings ! ……. he who writes the history gets to hide the truth, yup……

  24. Chad

    Ian, when an article is stating a warming effect of only 4% of a continents land mass why should we be scared? Antarctic sea ice alone is the highest it’s been since 2006. Not only is there 670,000 sq. km more highest than the next highest amount on Aug 29 , 2010, there is 3.7 million sq km more than 2011.

    We absolutely should do nothing, I’m not arrogant enough to think by allowing ponzi schemes to be put in place that we will be able to regulate the climate. The empirical evidence shows that it is not a very serious problem. Only propaganda shows we do.

    The warming is natural and there is also anthropogenic warming. For anyone to claim that the warming is only anthropogenic is insane.

    Please explain how I’m casting doubt on science. That’s what you seem to be doing with your assertions that the warming is only anthropogenic. I am sceptical of the catastrophic warming, of which takes centre stage whenever a catastrophic anthropogenic global warming article masquerading as a climate change article appears. These articles usually follow the same template of warmest day, month, year, decade on record without mentioning how short the record is and how these “records” have been surpassed in previous centuries. The rate of melting in an area is unprecedented,without informing the readers that it has occurred before such as the recent Greenland 97% increase of the rate of surface melt scare. The study stated that ice cores show that it occurs once every 150 years on average. The New York Times, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, CBS, BBC, alarmist blog sites all mentioned the recent rate of melt but, surely by coincidence, did not mention that it has occurred before. Can you explain why?

    Naomi Oreskes? Now I understand your viewpoint. Linking CAGW scepticism with tobacco, how intellectually lazy can you get. You forgot to mention big oil as well. I’m pretty sure I didn’t fight tobacco regulations. I hate smoking, but if other adults want to partake in it, that is their choice to do so.There is plenty of empirical data that proves cigarettes have an impact on human health. Not so with CAGW.

    As long as you and others concentrate on one environmental factor we know little about and continue to ignore other atmospheric and celestial factors that will continue to be the case.

  25. Ian


    Quote: 1) “how intellectually lazy can you get.” What the f**k are you talking about? Oreske is trying to understand denialists like you and has put a lot of research into it. I am trying to do the same. You are cherry-picking on a grand scale. Yes of course climate change has happened before and has happened all the time and sometimes quite rapidly but not because humans have polluted the atmosphere with greenhouse gases.

    Quote: 2) “As long as you and others concentrate on one environmental factor we know little about and continue to ignore other atmospheric and celestial factors that will continue to be the case.” The science on climate change is now well researched and understood (contrary to your assertion) and like all knowledge accumulation it has proceeded at an incremental pace beginning more than a century ago and other atmospheric factors ARE NOT BEING IGNORED.

    Incidentally I went to a lecture by Chris Rapley, a former director of The British Antarctic Survey. He went through the whole thing, anthropogenic and other and is in no doubt that the main driver, by far, of rapid climate change is us and that thing are worse than than earlier scientific estimates had estimated. He is certainly no alarmist but it’s clear that we need to act and act now. Anyone who can’t see that is a fool (even if the science turns out to be wrong). Are you one of those?

  26. Chad

    The science of climate change is now understood. You do realise how delusional that statement is? So mankind now knows 100% of every atmospheric factor involved and how they interact with precision in a chaotic climate system. Also I’m sure now that the influence of variation of energy from throughout the galaxy that reaches Earth has been completely understood I guess there is no need for further study now. Did Chris Rapley in his lecture name and explain a single paper that shows long term positive feedback that amplifies the warming as climate alarmists assert? I guess that would be a no as it does not exist. I’m sure that seminal paper explaining everything since all the evidence is accounted for will be released any day now.

    What the hell am I talking about? I’m talking about alarmists like you who link CAGW sceptics with ideological beliefs. Of course it would have nothing to do with the science.

    All Naomi Oreskes can do is smear, by linking CAGW sceptics with the tobacco lobby, or claim that opposition to environmental regulation of greenhouse gases is based on anti-communism! She has no idea. As others have pointed out, her grasp of science is so poor she isn’t familiar with the pH scale, thinks Beryllium is a heavy metal, mistakenly assumes that CO2 is trapped in the troposphere, and climate models can predict forest fires and floods. Embarrassingly, Oreskes doesn’t understand the difference between reactive oxygen and radioactive oxygen. If she had done a modicum of research she would have attempted to interview scientists before she smeared them. Merchants of Doubt is the political tome of an activist nothing more.

    Satellite monitoring of Arctic ice supposedly began in 1979, peak ice year of the last century at the end of a 40 year cooling period, which from 1979 to 2012, produces a stepped decline during that period. It actually began in 1974. But as the period between 1974 to 1979 showed an significant increase, showing a cyclical trend that contradicts their scares the start date of measurements was moved to 1979.

    In 1990 the IPCC published a graph based on NOAA data that showed Arctic ice extent in 1974 was almost 2 million km^2 less than 1979.

    Multiple peer reviewed studies have shown that lowering of sea ice extent has been due to warming and high pressure systems, winds and ocean currents, that melt and export ice from the Arctic. A NASA study published in the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters found “unusual winds” in the Arctic blew “older thicker” ice to warmer southern waters. Ignatius Rigor, a co-author of the NASA study, explained, “While the total [Arctic] area of ice cover in recent winters has remained about the same, during the past two years an increased amount of older, thicker perennial sea ice was swept by winds out of the Arctic Ocean into the Greenland Sea. What grew in its place in the winters between 2005 and 2007 was a thin veneer of first-year sea ice, which simply has less mass to survive the summer melt.” […] “Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic,” said Son Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and leader of the study.

    So when alarmists screech about lowest ice extent on record, without stating the other factors involved, and how short that record is, and that there is evidence that it is cyclical, clearly the intention is to deliberately mislead the public. That is not science, that is propaganda.

    Please stop equating greenhouse gases with pollution. I don’t believe water vapour is a pollutant. Is it?

  27. Chad

    Just noticed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing 28% more ice in 2012 than 2007 minimum. Passive microwave measurements are missing vast areas of ice, because an early winter storm broke the ice into sizes that the satellites are unable to detect. Alarmists are going hysterical, based on garbage data.

  28. heavylambs

    Chad , your figures on sea ice extent in Antarctica are wrong. This winter’s max extent was some 1,000,000km2 less than 2010s,and a little less than 2011. It’s actually the eighth lowest winter extent of the satellite era. While there is a trend of increase in the satellite era,it’s a less than 1 sigma departure from the average. My source is Cryosphere Todays ‘Southern Hemisphere Sea Ice Area’ graphic.

    The article on the ice core findings makes no mention of the modest increase in winter Antarctic sea ice extent. Since you introduced the matter,and are keen to present the most complete picture,you’ll no doubt realise that an increase in sea ice is possible even if warming in that region occurs because average temperatures are very low. They can rise somewhat without discouraging ice formation. In fact a warmer circumpolar zone is potentially a moister one,and ice thickening may be helped by enhanced snow fall. Ice formation can be enhanced by stronger circumpolar circulation,the creation of more polynyas and subsequent infilling. Sea surface temperature around Antarctica has been observed to be rising,though not as dramatically as in the Arctic. A paper like Zhang 2007 will give you mechanisms.

    You’ll also recall science papers that discussed the likelihood of seeing such an increase in sea ice extent in the early decades of warming. Some of these date from the late 1980s and the 1990s. Because the Southern Ocean is much deeper and larger than the Arctic [which is also a physically isolated deep basin with shallow accesses,surrounded by land surfaces],the dynamics of gradual warming are different at the two poles.

    Enhanced sea ice extent in the south is not a contradiction of observations or projections.

    There is also a growing pile of palaeo evidence for the recent Greenland marginal melting to be unseen in 2500 to 5000 years.

  29. heavylambs

    Chad, for best understanding of the trends in Arctic Ocean ice cover I refer you to Walsh & Chapman 2001,who have drawn together a lot of disparate data,integrating ship charts and satellite info.

    They found that average summer [3 months average,not the extreme 5 day value] ice max extent varied between 10 and 12 million km2 ,average around 11 million km2,between 1870 and the 1950s,after which a distinct declining trend set in,which has accelerated. Current summer average extents are almost half of the pre-1950s values.

    Also look at Kinnard et al 2008 for similar long term reconstructions.

  30. Ian

    Thanks HEAVYLAMBS for stepping in here and throwing sophisticated scientific facts right back at the sophisticated denialist. I’m sure you won’t convince him but at least anyone less aware of the serious problem we face will be less dazzled by the man’s claims and apparently scientific arguments.

  31. heavylambs

    Cheers Ian ,Chad seems to have ignored your bolded point that other atmospheric factors are not ignored,to argue some sort of strawman.

    I don’t know what he expects from climate change. There will always be weather. Weather factors are the only means for ice formation and movement within and out of the Arctic basin; there is no magical surface transport mechanism that only exists when climate changes!

    He has to ask why,whatever the weather and its different combinations year by year in the Arctic,some of which will combine to raise ice extent and some to lower it,the net result over the last half century has been a marked lowering of ice cover….as predicted by many projections under rising GHG levels. Its atmospheric change feeding through to local temperatures,surface and ocean.

    No-one predicted such change in the absence of GHG increase and accounting for insolation,aerosol and orbital factors.

    And now that summer ice extents are significantly low,the ocean gets more net annual insolation,is heating,and the formerly markedly stratified somewhat isolated ocean is behaving differently…changing the potential weather further. Feedbacks.

  32. Ian

    Keep up the attack against Chad and his ilk, we can’t let these people condemn the rest of humanity to the dire consequences of climate change without doing whatever we can to challenge them.

    Thanks Heavylambs.

  33. shepmyster

    People like Chad need to be taken on but I see no reason to argue the science with him. If Chad wants to deluded himself, I guess that’s his problem.
    What our problem is that people like Chad actually believe they understand the science. Chad yearns for a smoking gun, he sees one in just about every sentence he reads. While that may seem stupid to us, it’s not when you consider that one of the biggest fears people have is the fear of change.
    Why does Chad cling on to his ridiculous views? The Murdoch press has lead him to believe he can and be right. Intelligent as people are on this blog if your not a Climate scientist then you should not be commenting on the science, it’s a free kick for someone trying to confuse the issue and we should not be taking part.
    What we should be doing is attacking the likes of Rupert, his editors and his pit dog Andrew. Actuall if you think about it that’s where our strengths lie. We know exactly how Murdoch is confusing the subject and yet we are attacking people who are basically victims of it.
    I have a few ideas on how to address this inequity but by myself there pretty much useless. We need to stand as a group and start attacking the people who have engineered this situation and that’s the Murdoch press.

  34. Ian

    You’re right of course but it goes beyond the Murdoch press I think. You’ve got the fossil fuel industry itself and the think tanks they sponsor and you’ve got leading politicians like Abbot all trying to do their best to cloud the science.

    On top of that you have the ABC so-called “balancing” the science and other politicians basically discarding it or just giving lip service to it but acting as if it didn’t really matter.

    It is really, really difficult to get anywhere when the most powerful forces in the country, and for that matter in the world, are aligned against us.

    I fear our civilization is in terminal decline.

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