Wednesday, February 11, 2015

And Another — "Arctic Glacier’s Galloping Melt Baffles Scientists"


[Click to enlarge.]

by Gaius Publius

A fast follow-up to this recent post about disappearing glaciers. That piece was about the rapidly accelerating march of Greenland glaciers to the sea. This is about disappearing Arctic ice.

We already knew that Arctic ice was disappearing at a faster-than-predicted rate, that Arctic summers would be ice-free in just a few years. Thanks to new satellites that measure Arctic ice with greater accuracy, those "just a few" years are now fewer (my emphasis):
Arctic glacier’s galloping melt baffles scientists

An ice cap in the high Arctic has lost what British scientists say is a significant amount of ice in an unusually short time.

It has thinned by more than 50 metres since 2012 – about one sixth of its original thickness – and the ice flow is now 25 times faster, accelerating to speeds of several kilometres per year.

Over the last two decades, thinning of the Austfonna ice cap in the Svalbard archipelago − roughly half way between Norway and the North Pole − has spread more than 50km inland, to within 10km of the summit.

A team led by the scientists from the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) at the University of Leeds combined observations from eight satellite missions, including Sentinel-1A and CryoSat, with results from regional climate models, to understand what was happening.
This piece, from Climate News Network, has a "yes but" aspect to it:
Dr McMillan told Climate News Network he did not think what was happening in Austfonna suggested any sort of tipping point in the Arctic, which scientists say is warming more than twice as fast as anywhere else on Earth.

He said: “What I take from this work is that we don’t understand well enough what’s caused this sort of behaviour − natural variability, ocean temperatures or atmospheric temperatures. It reinforces the complexities and the challenges of the future.”
This is what I mean when I say that scientists are inherently conservative in their pronouncements. It's almost part of the profession. Dr. Naomi Oreskes agrees, in a peer-reviewed paper no less, calling this the problem of "erring on the side of least drama." I call it "always being wrong to the slow side," but I'm not peer-reviewed, at least not until I get home.

Scientists can talk tall about their models and their uncertainties. You have other advantages:
It has thinned by more than 50 metres since 2012 – about one sixth of its original thickness ...
You can do the math. The glacier will be gone in 10 years or less. Nothing baffling about that.


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