Stay Frosty Antarctica
There is a constant stream of scientific studies that report on melting ice in various parts of the world. Some from mountain glaciers, some from the arctic pack ice, some from Greenland, and some from the mother-load of glacial ice, Antarctica. Antarctica, the continent that covers Earth's south pole, contains more frozen water than all other deposits of glacial ice on the planet combined. The collapse of the Antarctic ice shelves, causing oceans to rise and all sorts of climate mayhem, is a favorite theme of climate alarmists everywhere. Unfortunately for them, new reports tell a different story. It seems that the Antarctic Peninsula has actually cooled over the past two decades. Moreover, all the hoopla about this being the hottest year ever is contradicted by findings from Antarctic ice cores that during the Eemian, the last interglacial (LIG; 130,000–115,000 years ago), global climate was warmer than today and global mean sea level was 6-9 m higher. Sorry to dampen the hysteria with actual science.
Every few years there appears a spate of articles and even TV reports that the ice of Antarctica is about to disintegrate and drown us all. This is reported in serious tones by well coiffed media airheads who have not a clue what they are talking about. But this is OK, many scientists don't either. You see, there is nothing settled about climate science, especially about what is going on at the bottom of the world. A News & Views article in Nature by Eric J. Steig, from the Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, sets the stage for one new report.
The Antarctic Peninsula is a triangular, mountainous land with a coastline of dramatic, calving glaciers and rich wildlife, and it exemplifies the popular image of Antarctica. Over the past half century, it has been one of the most rapidly warming places on Earth. This warming is associated with major physical and biological changes, including a decline in the Adélie penguin population1 and the disintegration in 2002 of a large portion of the Larsen B ice shelf, a major geographical feature that had existed for millennia. It is natural to view the changes at this northernmost point in Antarctica as part of the inexorable southward march of anthropogenic climate change. It may thus seem remarkable that Turner and colleagues now report that the Antarctic Peninsula has actually cooled in the past two decades.
What? The melting Antarctic, the coldest place on Earth, is actually getting colder? That is precisely what John Turner and colleagues have reported in “Absence of 21st century warming on Antarctic Peninsula consistent with natural variability.” Here is part of the paper's abstract, explaining just what was studied.
Here we use a stacked temperature record to show an absence of regional warming since the late 1990s. The annual mean temperature has decreased at a statistically significant rate, with the most rapid cooling during the Austral summer. Temperatures have decreased as a consequence of a greater frequency of cold, east-to-southeasterly winds, resulting from more cyclonic conditions in the northern Weddell Sea associated with a strengthening mid-latitude jet. These circulation changes have also increased the advection of sea ice towards the east coast of the peninsula, amplifying their effects. Our findings cover only 1% of the Antarctic continent and emphasize that decadal temperature changes in this region are not primarily associated with the drivers of global temperature change but, rather, reflect the extreme natural internal variability of the regional atmospheric circulation.
While the researchers studied a relatively small portion of the southernmost continent, the area covered, shown in the illustration below, is where the most pronounced temperature variation has been recorded. “The largest SAT increases have been observed in the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) and especially on its west coast,” they write. The accronym SAT stands for surface air temperature.
The upshot of this is that there are natural swings in temperature around Antarctica that occur on longer than human lifetime scales. To do this they used a statistical method called the Mann-Kendall (MK) test. The purpose of the MK test is to statistically assess if there is a monotonic upward or downward trend of the variable of interest over time. A monotonic upward (downward) trend means that the variable consistently increases (decreases) through time, though the trend may or may not be linear.
The results of their testing caused them to focus on the period from 1979 through 2014, looking for when the previous warming trend reversed and became a cooling trend. This analysis identified the middle of 1998 to early 1999 as the most likely turning point between the warming and cooling periods. “The trends in the stacked SAT during the warming (0.32 ± 0.20 per decade (dec−1), 1979–1997) and cooling (−0.47 ± 0.25 dec−1, 1999–2014) periods are both statistically significant at P < 0.05,” they report. This is shown graphically below in a figure taken from the paper.
This analysis shows that temperature trends can be quite long in human terms, increasing or decreasing only during a researchers entire lifetime. Unless historical data are considered the cyclic nature of climate change can, and often is, missed by unwary researchers. If myopic modern researchers would bother to look farther back than the beginning of the satellite record—the limited period that all this “hottest ever” nonsense is based on—they would find other periods with similar changes in temperature.
“In the longer term, this record revealed marked decadal variability and, importantly, resolved a 50-year period in the eighteenth century when SATs increased at a faster rate than observed at Vernadsky over the second half of the twentieth century,” say Turner et al. report. “Such long-term variability is also expected from analysis of station SAT records, which exhibit statistical long-term persistence.”
Their conclusions are thus: “Therefore all these studies suggest that the rapid warming on the AP since the 1950s and subsequent cooling since the late-1990s are both within the bounds of the large natural decadal-scale climate variability of the region. This result is also consistent with the very high level of decadal-scale natural internal variability of the regional atmospheric circulation seen in long control runs of climate models”
That's right, both the warming and the cooling trends are consistent with natural variability. Not the result of humans pouring tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, not burning evil fossil fuels or driving SUVs. Nature is astounding, as proven by error prone human climate scientists everyday. But that is one of the best things about science, it keeps looking for better answers because real scientists know the answers they have can always be improved on. Take, for example, the amount of ice covering Antarctica.
Given the number of research missions to Antarctica and the climate change community's fixation on melting ice caps, one might assume we have a pretty good idea how much of the southernmost continent is actually covered in ice. Not so, says a new report from NASA. Old estimates were that about 1% of Antarctica was ice free but a recently completed study, reported in Cryosphere, says this is inaccurate. Here is a quote from the abstract:
This is the first automated methodology for snow and rock differentiation that excludes areas of snow (both illuminated and shaded), clouds and liquid water whilst identifying both sunlit and shaded rock, achieving higher and more consistent accuracies than alternative data and methods such as the NDSI. The new methodology has been applied to the whole Antarctic continent (north of 82°40′ S) using Landsat 8 data to produce a new rock outcrop dataset for Antarctica. The new data (merged with existing data where Landsat 8 tiles are unavailable; most extensively south of 82°40′ S) reveal that exposed rock forms 0.18 % (21 745 km2) of the total land area of Antarctica: half of previous estimates.
How can scientists report that Antarctica is losing its ice cap when they don't even know how much ice it has? Good question, but that hasn't stopped alarmists from frothing at the mouth over the imminent collapse of this glacier or that. Clearly, such ranting is to be take with a grain of salt. But what about all this “hottest year ever” nonsense? Another paper shows that for the foolishness it is.
A paper by Max D. Holloway and colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), reports that the last interglacial period, known as the Eemian, was warmer than the one we are in currently, known as the Holocene. In “Antarctic last interglacial isotope peak in response to sea ice retreat not ice-sheet collapse,” it was rising temperatures that caused the rising sea levels and explains the data taken from Antarctic ice cores.
Several studies have suggested that sea-level rise during the last interglacial implies retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). The prevalent hypothesis is that the retreat coincided with the peak Antarctic temperature and stable water isotope values from 128,000 years ago (128 ka); very early in the last interglacial. Here, by analysing climate model simulations of last interglacial WAIS loss featuring water isotopes, we show instead that the isotopic response to WAIS loss is in opposition to the isotopic evidence at 128 ka. Instead, a reduction in winter sea ice area of 65±7% fully explains the 128 ka ice core evidence.
More succinctly put: “During the last interglacial (LIG; 130,000–115,000 years ago) global climate was warmer than today and global mean sea level was 6-9 m higher.” And these researchers are not the only ones to conclude that temperatures were hotter the last time we had an interglacial warm period. See P. Bakker et al. “Temperature trends during the Present and Last Interglacial periods - a multi-model-data comparison,” and B. L. Otto-Bliesner et al. “How warm was the last interglacial? New model-data comparisons” for a start. The Eemian warm spell, 115,00 to 130,000 years ago, shows that global warming can happen without man's interference.
And just for the record, there were humans around during the Eemian interglacial, so for some nitwit to say that “2016 is the hottest year any human has ever experienced on Earth” is pure climate alarmist bullshit. The good news is, whatever happens in terms of Earth's changing climate, humans have the ability to adapt and survive. Maybe not the climate catastrophe Chicken Littles, but the rest of us. So take a clue from Antarctica and stay frosty people.
Be safe, enjoy the interglacial, and stay skeptical.