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Ice shelf breakaway in Antarctica claimed to be latest sign of global warming
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MSNBC breathlessly reports:
A vast ice shelf hanging on by a thin strip looks to be the next chunk to break off from the Antarctic Peninsula, the latest sign of global warming’s impact on Earth's southernmost continent.

Scientists are shocked by the rapid change of events.

Glaciologist Ted Scambos of the University of Colorado was monitoring satellite images of the Wilkins Ice Shelf and spotted a huge iceberg measuring 25 miles by 1.5 miles that appeared to have broken away from the shelf.

Scambos alerted colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) that it looked like the entire ice shelf — about 6,180 square miles (about the size of Northern Ireland)— was at risk of collapsing.
To give you an idea of where this ice shelf is, they include this picture:

Having now planted the horrors of global warming (caused by man) seed, MSNBC continues:
The Wilkins Ice Shelf was stable for most of the last century until it began retreating in the 1990s. A previous major breakout occurred there in 1998 when 390 square miles of ice was lost in just a few months.

"We believe the Wilkins has been in place for at least a few hundred years, but warm air and exposure to ocean waves are causing it to break up," Scambos said.

The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed faster than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere; temperature records show that the region has warmed by over 37 degrees Fahrenheit during the past 50 years — several times the global average and only matched in Alaska.
So now that the alarm has been raised that global warming (and man) is the cause of this shocking ice shelf collapse, let's check a couple of other things out.

First, it is summer down under (it is now ending even as our spring approaches), so the temperatures are naturally up. And the Antarctic peninsula is the furthest point away from the pole. As you'll see, Wilkins is certainly in a position to be effected by the South Atlantic's winds and relatively warmer currents.

But, more importantly, another very probable reason that we see the Wilkins ice sheet collapsing and breaking away has to do with an active volcano.

As reported here, "Scientists have just now discovered an active volcano under the Antarctic ice that “creates melt-water that lubricates the base of the ice sheet and increases the flow towards the sea”. That could include the Wilkins Ice Sheet as well (the article cited talks about the Larson A and B sheets).

One of the more probable causes of the ice sheet collapse, then, may be the fact some of them sit astride a chain of volcanic vent islands known as the Seal Nunataks. Make sense? As the volcano vents and the ice sheets are "lubricated" by melt water and move, they could certainly cause other ice sheets to move too, no?

So the questions is - could an active volcano with volcanic vents very near the ice sheet in question have such an effect? I'd think it might, but somehow that possible explanation it is missing from the MSNBC article.

Meanwhile, check out the temperature trends in the rest of Antarctica as depicted in the next picture.

So while the trend on the Antarctic peninsula is "warmer" notice the temperature trends on the rest of the continent.

IceCap gives us some much needed perspective:
The [MSNBC] account may be misinterpreted by some as the ice cap or a significant (vast) portion is collapsing. In reality it and all the former shelves that collapsed are small and most near the Antarctic peninsula which sticks well out from Antarctica into the currents and winds of the South Atlantic and lies in a tectonically active region with surface and subsurface active volcanic activity. The vast continent has actually cooled since 1979.

The full Wilkins 6,000 square mile ice shelf is just 0.39% of the current ice sheet (just 0.1% of the extent last September). Only a small portion of it between 1/10th-1/20th of Wilkins has separated so far, like an icicle falling off a snow and ice covered house. And this winter is coming on quickly. In fact the ice is returning so fast, it is running an amazing 60% ahead (4.0 vs 2.5 million square km extent) of last year when it set a new record. The ice extent is already approaching the second highest level for extent since the measurements began by satellite in 1979 and just a few days into the Southern Hemisphere winter and 6 months ahead of the peak. Wilkins like all the others that temporarily broke up will refreeze soon. We are very likely going to exceed last year’s record. Yet the world is left with the false impression Antarctica’s ice sheet is also starting to disappear.
Always nicer to have all the facts when considering a 'news' report of this sort, isn't it?

Linked by Climate Skeptic, Two-Four, International House of Bacon and Mental Hiccups - Thanks!
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Previous Comments to this Post 

We here in the US have a free press, and you get what you pay for.

Written By: Jeff Medcalf
But . . but . . Al Gore . . Consensus . . CO2 . . Man’s inhumanity to man . . Gloom & Doom . . Etc. Etc.

Erb? Tag - You’re In!
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Oh, McQ, here you are getting emotional about global warming again. You just keep on emphasizing the denialist side, without taking into account the immense consensus among those with whom I speak daily in the faculty lounge. And my students, of course, with whom I have never had a serious disagreement. They seem to completely in agreement with everything I say.

Only I, with my godlike powers of political science, can sit above the fray and see both sides. Only I can point out how biased you are to only present one side. Only I can pretend to give both sides a fair hearing while really believing that the global warming evidence is overwhelming.

I must say that since I have returned from my well-deserved European vacation, the tone around here has deteriorated. There is an almost complete denial of my godlike powers of political science, and in fact some have even called me stupid! Imagine that! You’re commenters are getting truly desperate, McQ, to stoop to such attacks against a paragon such as myself.

You really should enter the fray and tell them to accept my wisdom. I bring such a valuable contribution to this forum, considering how the other commenters are all cackling righties who deny my unique capabilities.

Only I, with my godlike powers of political science, can determine that fifty accusers of Kerry are all liars while Kerry is a war hero who has never told so much as a white lie in his life. Only I, with my godlike powers of political science, can see the true state of Iraq and Afghanistan, and how the entire situation is about to come apart any second now. Only I, with my godlike powers of political science, can truly appreciate the genius of a man like Jimmy Carter. Only I, with my godlike powers of political science plus my book on European politics, can discern how smart the Europeans are and how much we need to imitate them.

And only I, with my godlike powers of political science, can analyze the data on global warming, as I did here, and show everyone here, even the engineers with years more science, math and statistics, that the global warming denialist case is shot full of holes.

Now, please excuse me as I go back and use my godlike powers to present the truth and the light to another group of fresh-faced students. Thank goodness none of them read your blog. And since I don’t allow comments on my own blog, none of them will ever know about you, until the day you magnanimously turn this pitiful blog over to me and I can raise it to its true potential. With Jon’s help, of course
Written By: Ott Scerb
Good grief. Do these clowns at MSNBC have even a basic understanding of what they write about? Don’t answer that. 37 degree F warming? Maybe 3.7 F or 3.7 C. The global number usually cited is 1-2 degree F over the past 100 years
Written By: Emcee
URL: http://
I saw (while flipping through to the Weather Channel to get the morning temp.) the MSNBC report this morning. There’s one further inanity. The headline that was run under the video of this report was claiming that an iceberg the size of Connecticut was in danger of falling off.

It’s been a while since I was up that way, but the last time I was in Connecticut it was bigger than 25 miles by 1.5 miles. Or does global warming also cause states to shrink?
Written By: kishnevi
URL: http://
You dummy, don’t you realize that active volcano’s are ALSO caused by global warming?

Written By: shark
URL: http://
"the region has warmed by over 37 degrees Fahrenheit during the past 50 years - several times the global average and only matched in Alaska"

Color me extremely skeptical. A localized temperature rise that large would certainly be headline news. Also impossible.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
It’s been a while since I was up that way, but the last time I was in Connecticut it was bigger than 25 miles by 1.5 miles.
They must have meant Rhode Island ;-)
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
You still don’t get it, do you McQ. If part of the world gets hotter, global warming is to blame. If another part gets cooler, then as sure as only the true Messiah denies his divinity, that was part of the model, too. If earth’s temperatures remain exactly the same for the next 10 years, that is just the gods of global warming testing our faith. Get with the program already!
Written By: Xrlq
Hey, global warming contracts are now trading in the prediction markets. A chance for folks to put their money where their mouths are, and yield better truth than polling:
Written By: caveat bettor
Government mandates make those global warming contracts pay off. They have nothing to do with what is actually going on.

Al Gore’s carbon offsets is a scam that pales in comparison with the potential money of a venture capitalist group he became part of. They bought a bunch of green technologies up that are worthless without government mandates. Shortly after joining that group, Gore came out with his movie.

Of course, its only money on the anti-man made global warming side that’s corruptive.
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Will these idiots in the media EVER figure out that when talking about DIFFERENCES in temperature you only multiply degrees C by 1.8, you DON’T add 32 to correct to freezing. 37-32 = 5 degrees F = 2.7 degrees C. Even that sounds like a lot though...
Written By: Richard
URL: http://
And you heard about the report how? Did one the three people watching msnbc contact you?
Written By: Paden Cash
URL: http://
You might want to check out CNN International’s "weatherman", Guillermo something-or-the-other, on Wednesday night trying to explain how global warming has caused all those red and blue colours to appear.

If ever a man was entangled in his own obfuscatory rhetoric this was it! His facial expression, his body language, his unintelligible circumlocutions—it was all simply laughable, ridiculous, shameful!

We have a Spanish word for that down here where I live—Sinverguenza!

Written By: eliXelx
URL: http://

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