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Earth Canada Science

Canadian Ice Shelves Halve In Six Years 458

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-cool dept.
eldavojohn writes "The CBC reports on new research that shows thousand-year-old ice shelves (much different than sea ice) are breaking up and have been reduced by half in a region of Canada over the last six years. 'This summer alone saw the Serson ice shelf almost completely disappear and the Ward Hunt shelf split in half. The ice loss equals about three billion tonnes, or about 500 times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza.' More detailed pictures can be seen at The Conversation, with a quote from Professor Steven Sherwood, Co-Director of the University of NSW's Climate Change Research Centre: 'The real significance of this, in my view, is that this ice has reportedly been there for thousands of years. The same is true of glaciers that have recently disappeared in the Andes. These observations should dispel in one fell swoop any notion that recent global warming could be natural.'"
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Canadian Ice Shelves Halve In Six Years

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  • by AdamJS (2466928) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:39PM (#37571064)
    It has never and will never be that easy, Steve. Your optimism is appreciated though.
  • by arpad1 (458649) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:39PM (#37571068)

    How about a bit less in the way of hysteria? All the folks who were having kittens over the phony reduction in the Greenland ice sheet are looking like schmucks now so perhaps a few people, like the editors of Slashdot for instance, could forgo schmuckdom by not engaging in heavy breathing ahead of the facts?

  • by ShavedOrangutan (1930630) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:42PM (#37571098)
    ... that have been gone since long before the invention of the Sport Utility Vehicle. Or the wheel, for that matter.

    I blame the Tea Party.
  • Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by avandesande (143899) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:43PM (#37571104) Journal

    These observations should dispel in one fell swoop any notion that recent global warming could be natural.

    So you are saying that if there was natural global warming these ice shelves wouldn't melt? That's pretty amazing!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:44PM (#37571112)

    So I'm not one who tends to dismiss things that experts outside my field say, but this statement is quite a blatant fallacy: just because it's been that way for thousands of years doesn't mean that any change is certainly not natural. It's these types of statements that cause so many to lose credibility. It doesn't give me much faith in someone's ability to interpret complex data when he can't even construct a valid deduction from simple facts...

  • by surefooted (826448) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:45PM (#37571132)
    Seriously. It's matter of fact statements like this that are the problem. One feel swoop,eh. Really...
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:45PM (#37571134)

    Since you have no record of how fast ice shelves may have vanished in the past due to natural warming, it seems suspect to claim that this certainly proves the current rate of dissipation is due to unnatural warming...

    Yes there is warming, but it appears our activities are unrelated [carlineconomics.com].

    But then what would he know? He's only the chair of a climatology department...

    But my main point remains, that you are taking a rather unscientific leap with your fear-mongering statement.

  • Bad phrasing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by OverlordQ (264228) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:47PM (#37571162) Journal

    'The real significance of this, in my view, is that this ice has reportedly been there for thousands of years. The same is true of glaciers that have recently disappeared in the Andes. These observations should dispel in one fell swoop any notion that recent global warming could be natural.'"

    How's that saying go, past performance is no guarantee of future results. The Andes used to be under water for thousands of years; the continents used to all be one big land mass. If we lived back then I'm sure we'd be hearing about Anthropogenic Tectonic Drift.

    Dont jump from "There used to be ice, now there isn't." to "We did it"

    These unique and massive geographical features that we consider to be a part of the map of Canada are disappearing and they won’t come back

    Alarmist.

    The researchers say their disappearance suggests a possible return to conditions unseen in the Arctic for thousands of years.

    So there used to be conditions where they would have melted anyways, climate changed and they appeared, now they're disappearing again and you say we'll never see them again?

  • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@noSpAm.yahoo.com> on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:50PM (#37571196) Journal

    "These observations should dispel in one fell swoop any notion that recent global warming could be natural."

    Really? Because climate has never, ever, not even once, shifted quickly?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Holocene_Temperature_Variations.png [wikipedia.org]

    Note the huge uptick in average temperature starting roughly 11.5k years BP. I'm pretty sure the foot-powered cars the Flintstones drove didn't warm the earth, so this must've been a natural event. Saying that it's impossible for current temperature trends to be unnatural flies in the face of something that has already happened once, almost within recorded history; not to mention all the times when it happened outside of recorded history.

    This is why some people, like myself, do not take climate alarmists seriously. They make these grandiose pronouncements that have little, if anything, to do with the facts.

  • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Antisyzygy (1495469) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:50PM (#37571200)
    I think he's arguing that the ice shelves were there through previously known natural warmings. Its still unjustified to claim its absolutely caused by human related global warming, but whatever.
  • by asylumx (881307) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:51PM (#37571212)
    Those didn't disappear in six years.
  • by ChrisKnight (16039) <merlin&ghostwheel,com> on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:52PM (#37571230) Homepage

    Summaries like this irk me. It ends with "These observations should dispel in one fell swoop any notion that recent global warming could be natural." This is a complete invalid conclusion.

    "These observations should dispel in one fell swoop any notion that recent global warming is not happening." is a more reasonable statement based on the facts presented.

    As to proving that it is not natural, that is a different argument that needs to be made by demonstrating the causes not reciting the symptoms.

  • by iggymanz (596061) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:55PM (#37571254)

    Other glaciers in Canada are *growing* (an inconvenient truth), like Helm, Pace and on Mount Logan. In one swoop, this proves......

  • by Coren22 (1625475) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:56PM (#37571280) Journal

    Funny, but this gives no evidence of either man made or natural climate change. These ice sheets were created in the last ice age, which is still ending, so they were likely to melt either way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:58PM (#37571296)

    No, but we have documented proof that both Europe and North America were experiencing a "mini ice age" as late at the mid-1800's, and that before the early 1700's (when the mini ice-age started) it was warmer than it is now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:59PM (#37571326)

    Ah, the good old glass houses argument. Also known as "I can't be wrong because I think you/re wrong". Always a solid argument, unless of course the opponent is particularly cagey and knows the devastating "I'm rubber you're glue" defense which, as we all know, is unstoppable.

  • by Coren22 (1625475) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:59PM (#37571328) Journal

    eldavojohn writes

    Usually everything in the quote box after that is written by the submitter. The editor didn't throw in his own comment on this story, so direct your vitriol at eldavojohn, not Soulskill.

    Though, I do agree with you, that comment about dispelling was utterly moronic. These ice sheets are thousands of years old...oh, they are from the last ice age, so they would melt anyways. Antarctic ice that is millions of years old would be more worrying if it was melting.

  • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by avandesande (143899) on Friday September 30, 2011 @04:01PM (#37571340) Journal

    Point taken. So to be correct we would should say that whatever the cause of the current warming it is unprecedented in the last several thousand years.

    Funny how if you see a logical fallacy when you skim something you tend to ignore the rest....

  • by Coren22 (1625475) on Friday September 30, 2011 @04:01PM (#37571344) Journal

    These shelves (that are on the water btw) didn't disappear either, take a look at the pictures, they are the ends of the glaciers that hang out in the water, they are going to reduce over time.

  • by dpilot (134227) on Friday September 30, 2011 @04:04PM (#37571394) Homepage Journal

    There are 2 basic threads to anti-anthropogenic global warming arguments...

    The first is, "It's not really happening, you've cherry-picked your data and/or misinterpreted it." and the refutation usually seems to consist of cherry-picked data with very specific interpretations.

    The second is, "It's not anthropogenic, it's natural, because of..." with some reason or other.

    For the moment I won't take sides on either thread, but I'm going to take very serious issue with the second. However I get the very distinct feeling with both threads that the real message is, "Since global warming is not real / not anthropogenic, we don't need to modify our actions. We can keep our fossil-fuel-based energy and transportation, unmodified." (and business models, might I add...)

    But assuming you're on the second thread, and assuming you're saying that global warming is real, just not man-caused, it must be apparent that we simply cannot keep going the way we are. We must come to grips with a changing environment. Global warming means more energy into the atmosphere, and that means more water evaporates and moves from place to place. Some places get even more water, some places get even less, storms get stronger, and it's not even a smoking-gun kind of thing, it's statistical. No new killer drought or killer flood or killer tornado, just a slow ramp on the severity and frequency of the ones we have.

    All the while people living in marginal areas get stressed, our agricultural systems get stressed, our emergency response systems get stressed. It's not "a disaster", it's more of the disasters we've had all along.

    Not planning for it, not studying it very carefully to understand the extent, not taking some action to mitigate it, is hiding our head in the sand, and waiting to get smacked in the butt.

    When you get flattened by a giant rock, you're just as dead if the rock rolled off a cliff as if it was dropped by a crane. One is "natural", the other "anthropogenic", but you're still dead.

  • Re:Bad phrasing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cosmicaug (150534) on Friday September 30, 2011 @04:20PM (#37571588)

    'The real significance of this, in my view, is that this ice has reportedly been there for thousands of years. The same is true of glaciers that have recently disappeared in the Andes. These observations should dispel in one fell swoop any notion that recent global warming could be natural.'"

    How's that saying go, past performance is no guarantee of future results. The Andes used to be under water for thousands of years; the continents used to all be one big land mass. If we lived back then I'm sure we'd be hearing about Anthropogenic Tectonic Drift.

    Assuming this is not some pathetic attempt at humor which I am pathetically entirely missing, do you even have any idea of the timescales involved here or are you one of those 'the earth is 10000 years old' folk?

  • by Synerg1y (2169962) on Friday September 30, 2011 @05:12PM (#37572152)

    Ice melts naturally as per nature, we are constantly cycling an ice age, I believe we can still trace back to our old one. I'll be honest I think it's both. Part natural, part humans, we can't tell what is natural and what is caused by us because we haven't been watching the ice for very long on the ice's timescale.

    Ice shelves melting are nothing to freak out about though, it happens all the time in nature, what is frustrating is the lack of evidence pointing either way and the accusing finger being pointed at humanity without proof. Also, stating that there is a problem isn't helpful, solving it is. If this guy's for real, he's on step 1 of 8 of the scientific method. It's just like the legalize marijuana conventions, a bunch of rabble shows up and expects to be respected simply for being there, marijuana is still illegal 95%, so what does that do for us, besides the scientist being the boy who cried wolf, and when the actual wolf comes, we're too busy w the boy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 30, 2011 @05:49PM (#37572490)

    Some glaciers should grow due to AGW while others should shrink. We can, to a degree, model which ones should grow and which ones should shrink (but that's a bit harder than recognizing the generality).

    AGW raises that atmosphere's temperature, and its temperature affects glaciers by at least two general proximal mechanisms: more or less directly, by melting them, melting the snow that would accumulate to form them, lubricating their flow, etc.; and by changing the amount and type of precipitation that might fall on them. The mass of a glacier is dictated by the balance between melting and accumulation. If the extra moisture in the atmosphere falls as significantly more snow than would have fallen without AGW, as might occur at certain latitudes and elevations, or due to peculiarities of geography, it can swamp the loss of mass caused by warming. Those glaciers will accumulate mass even in spite of somewhat higher temperatures.

    The most endangered glaciers are those at modest latitudes and elevations, especially in places that don't get dramatic amounts of snowfall, or areas that will see adverse changes in precipitation levels and patterns as a result of climate change.

    That said, I have no idea how Mt. Logan might be affected by this dynamic, but no single mountain or glacier's behavior will prove or disprove anything about climate change. Overall, however, the world's long-lived temperate glaciers are losing mass and receding, the cause of which can only be climate related. The most reasonable explanation for the abrupt change is AGW.

  • by Coolhand2120 (1001761) on Friday September 30, 2011 @06:35PM (#37573036)
    Your comment reminds me of the Sinfield episode where Jerry and Kramer are trying to train a fighting cock (named little Jerry) and they are timing his laps up and down the apartment hallway when George walks in:

    Jerry:"Little Jerry can run down the hallway in 12.7 seconds!"
    George:"Is that good?"
    Jerry:"I don't know!"

    They have been there for a thousand years, then they lose half their size in six years and you think that's nothing to worry about?

    To quote David Putty: "Uh huh, that's right"

    Did you know there's a caldera under Yosemite today that's causing some unprecedented seismic activity? Perhaps you would like to pose a rhetorical question about that: "It took 10,000 years for the caldera to build up and now in the last 50 years there's some yet-to-be-seen seismic activity and you think that's nothing to worry about!?". Maybe we can look at some heavenly bodies next and opine rhetorical about that.

    If the rate of melting had been the same for those thousand years as it has been for the last six years that ice would be 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000006735 times the size it is now.

    Now that's some real science! What is that the ja-billionth placeholder? More like the jabroni placeholder. I think you've got that ice down to the size of a flea's underwear. Maybe you should add a few more zeros just to help drive the point home. Take the advice of Mark Twain: "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

  • by Coolhand2120 (1001761) on Friday September 30, 2011 @08:08PM (#37573716)

    ...we might reasonably expect to have seen them before, right?

    True, but only if someone was observing and recording the data. All we know about "back then" is what we can infer from tree rings and ice core records. All we really know for sure about "back then" is that nobody was taking any sort of accurate measure of what was happening. We have a metric shit ton of anticdotal evidence that the ice sheets were not there as early as a thousand years ago (northern farms in greenland, Roman maps of an ice-free Antarctica) but since nobody bothered to write anything down it's anybodies guess. The issue is, some people are making guesses, admittedly educated guess, but guesses nonetheless, and then portraying them as actionable fact.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Educated guess+Computer modeling != extraordinary evidence let alone fact. Just do a word find for "fact" on this page to find the number of pro AGW guys claiming that AGW is a fact, these people are non-scientific zealots. These zealots are the face of AGW. I am not a zealot, I am a skeptic, I take nothing at face value, I question the existence of god. I use strong deductive logic to support my arguments. I am a scientist.

  • by Fyzzler (1058716) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @01:29AM (#37575026)

    No, there really is a consensus among climatologists. 0ver 97% of climatologists who are actively publishing on climate change and over 85% of climatologists in general agree that human influences are responsible for most of the global warming we are seeing

    And the 3% that don't agree, don't get funding, tenure or publishing. Quite the incentive to toe the Religious line. Also, 97% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

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