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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 @02:39PM (#37571064)
    It has never and will never be that easy, Steve. Your optimism is appreciated though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Layzej (1976930)

        The height of the current interglacial was about 8000 years ago. Temperatures have been (very) slowly dropping back down since then - until recently that is. The magnitude of the current changes in the arctic are very troubling, and the rate of decrease is accelerating. The following graph shows that arctic summer ice was fairly steady at 16,000,000km^3 up until the 1990's. We are now down to 4,500,000 km^3 : http://neven1.typepad.com/.a/6a0133f03a1e37970b014e885c65ac970d-pi [typepad.com]

        This has led some to charact

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Coren22 (1625475)

      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 Ichijo (607641) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:49PM (#37571938) Homepage 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.

        No, the last ice age ended 10,000 years ago [grist.org]. There was a more recent "little ice age," but that was a local phenomenon, not global.

        But you're right that this doesn't prove that the global average temperature is rising. Again, it's only a local phenomenon, and it's possible that the ice shelves are getting colder but seeing less precipitation, resulting in the loss of ice mass.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by microbox (704317)
        The AGW argument doesn't fit into a single factoid. We know the climate change is man-made as follows:
        • CO2 has increased since the industrial revolution.
        • We know the CO2 is man-made by two independent methods. Firstly, we can account for it by recording the amount of coal/oil that has been burnt. Secondly, coal/oil has a different mixture of carbon isotopes, and these particular isotopes are accumulating in the atmosphere.
        • We know CO2 is a green-house gas
        • We have detailed models for how much forcing CO2 cause
        • by Jack9 (11421)

          > We know that the sun hasn't changed solar output
          Er about that....
          > and that there are no systematic changes in cosmic rays,
          And that...
          > etc.
          Yeah....might wanna slow down there.

  • by arpad1 (458649) on Friday September 30, 2011 @02:39PM (#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?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Coren22 (1625475)

      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.

    • by microbox (704317)
      Who is having kittens over phony reduction of Greenland ice-sheet? What on earth are you talking about? Surely not an atlas that used the wrong map by mistake?
    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      Greenland is loosing ice at a rate of over 100 Gigatonnes per year as measured by the GRACE gravimetric satellites. This page [skepticalscience.com] contains several references to peer reviewed papers on the subject.

  • Uh oh. (Score:4, Funny)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Friday September 30, 2011 @02:40PM (#37571078) Homepage

    Now where am I supposed to keep my ice books?

  • by ShavedOrangutan (1930630) on Friday September 30, 2011 @02:42PM (#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 @02:43PM (#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!

    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Antisyzygy (1495469) on Friday September 30, 2011 @02:50PM (#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.
      • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

        by avandesande (143899) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:01PM (#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 Thing 1 (178996)

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

          Not so funny to me; evidence of lacking logic in one area could imply lacking logic in all areas, and therefore the rest of the communication should be suspect -- if not discarded outright.

    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Informative)

      by quantaman (517394) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:04PM (#37571388)

      "The real significance of this, in my view, is that this ice has reportedly been there for thousands of years."

      So we see the strongest warming cycle in thousands of years.

      What's more likely?

      That this unprecedented warming is natural and just happened to correspond with AGW.

      Or that the AGW thing that scientists have been talking about for decades is doing exactly the thing they've been predicting.

      True there's more nuance than that (not everywhere warms the same, etc) but the evidence has piled up pretty damn high.

  • What is this Great Pyramid of Giza unit?!? I demand all mass measurements to be reported in the accepted Elephant units. African or Indian, it's your choice.

  • 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.

    • Im pretty sure they have some data considering they can get ice cores, and I am sure they probably have before. This would show approximately how long its been there, and there would be evidence of warming events, etc. in the ice.
    • by cosmicaug (150534) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:08PM (#37571436)

      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...

      Says who? At the very least, someone seems to have the idea that these particular ice masses have been around for thousands of years.

      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...

      http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/08/murray_salby_and_conservation.php [scienceblogs.com]

    • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:35PM (#37571770) Homepage Journal

      In 2008 fossil fuel burning adding 8.7 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere, land use changes another 1.2 gigatons. Where did it go? Unless all anthropogenic CO2 is disappearing in a way that natural CO2 isn't, then we're contributing to the increase.

    • by DeadCatX2 (950953)

      Since no one else has explicitly debunked this yet...

      Yes, it is true that human emission of CO2 is dwarfed by natural emissions, which dominate the variability in CO2 emissions on a short-term annual basis. However, natural CO2 emissions are in equilibrium with natural CO2 sinks, so the long-term trend is more neutral. The human CO2 emissions have no corresponding CO2 sink, and therefore continually add a little bit of CO2 to the atmosphere every year.

      Think of it like this. You get a paycheck for $2k eve

  • God wants it this way.
  • Bad phrasing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by OverlordQ (264228)

    '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

    • If it takes thousands of years, we probably wont see them again.
    • Re:Bad phrasing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cosmicaug (150534) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:20PM (#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?

    • Re:Bad phrasing (Score:5, Informative)

      by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:43PM (#37571850) Homepage Journal

      >If we lived back then I'm sure we'd be hearing about Anthropogenic Tectonic Drift.

      The difference is that there's a physical mechanism for human effect on climate and that observations are matching calculations based on that physics.

      A quick touchstone for any alternative hypothesis for explaining global temperature rises is to ask, "Does it predict stratospheric cooling?" If CO2 is trapping heat in the lower atmosphere, then we'd predict that it won't reach the stratosphere, which will then cool down. Warming due to orbital changes, solar activity, or whatnot, would warm up the stratosphere.

      It's easy to find out which is happening.

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      Dont jump from "There used to be ice, now there isn't." to "We did it"
      He didn't. He said it wasn't natural. If it wasn't natural, it must be supernatural. If we did it, it would be natural.
  • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Friday September 30, 2011 @02:50PM (#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.

    • by Alomex (148003)

      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.

      Most likely this is just like Y2K, SARS, and yes, even AIDS. All real, actually happening events and yet at the same time exaggerated by people who have much to profit from pushing an agenda (in this case funding for their own research programs).

    • by Ichijo (607641)

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

      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.

      What's that massive spike at the end of the graph, in the "Recent Proxies" section? Do you see it?

    • by cosmicaug (150534)

      "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.

      That's not a very reassuring comparison if you want to calm down the alarmists. You know what else happened at a time when, despite what you are suggesting, temperature change was slower than what we seem to be getting now, at ~11.5k years BP? Yup, that's right, a mass extinction.

    • by Alsee (515537)

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

      Right. It hasn't. And your link only demonstrates how radically unnatural the current warming is.

      Check the slope of the graph you linked to. The "rapid" warming coming out of the last ice age has a rate of approximately 1 degree C per 2200 years.

      Over the last hundred-odd years the earth has earth has recently warmed at a rate fourteen times faster than that. And the conservative end of the scale the current rate of warming is 2 degrees C over the next hundred years. That's 44 times faster than the unusually

  • Logical fallacy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Friday September 30, 2011 @02:51PM (#37571208) Journal

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

    Why?

    Ice melting fast != humans at fault. Honestly, I've seen a lake go from "safe to walk on" to "no trace of ice" in a few days. I never once thought "Holy crap, some dude must have caused this!"

    Certainly, that's the ASSUMPTION, and there are a lot of credible reasons for believing that to be true. But I don't see how A logically follows B unless you're already certain that B is true and just looking for more reasons to say it.

    • by Bucky24 (1943328)

      Ice melting fast != humans at fault. Honestly, I've seen a lake go from "safe to walk on" to "no trace of ice" in a few days. I never once thought "Holy crap, some dude must have caused this!"

      That's what happens when someone pees in the lake.

  • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Friday September 30, 2011 @02:51PM (#37571210)

    We all know by now that global warming is caused by the lack of pirates:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster#Pirates_and_global_warming [wikipedia.org]

  • by ChrisKnight (16039) <merlin@g h o s t w h eel.com> on Friday September 30, 2011 @02:52PM (#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 Thing 1 (178996)

      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.

      I think we should first prove that humans are not natural. Before we start saying that climate change is not natural, regardless of the cause.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday September 30, 2011 @02:54PM (#37571250)

    I'll just point out the corresponding lack of sea level rise. I'm going to have to put this in the same category as the atlas maker that said 15 percent of Greenland's ice melted. If that had actually happened the oceans would have gone up by feat. That hasn't happened so 15 percent of greenland's ice didn't melt. Likewise if this ice pack is so significant in canada there must be a corresponding rise in sea level.

    Over the last century we've had a rise of about 8 cm in sea level. That means ice has absolutely melted. Just not as much as the alarmists would have us believe.

    We can take GW seriously without getting hysterical about it. What we're seeing is SLOW melting and SLOW sea level rise.

    • by OverlordQ (264228)

      I'll just point out the corresponding lack of sea level rise. I'm going to have to put this in the same category as the atlas maker that said 15 percent of Greenland's ice melted.

      15% could have melted and someplace else grew by 15%

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

    • by halivar (535827)

      It proves that some Canadian glaciers are eating too much processed American-style fast food. And I, for one, would like to know what we are going to do about it!

    • Ten percent of the glaciers in the world are growing. Draw your own conclusions.

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:27PM (#37571688)

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

      I like it when people post references for their claims.
      I tried to verify yours on my own and was not successful.

      The claim that Helm Glacier is growing seems to be out right false. [wordpress.com]

      The claim about Mount Logan seem to be based on an increase in height [iceagenow.com] - the assumption being that it's due to ice accumulation, but that does not translate one way or the other to the total mass of the glacier, just the thickness at one point.

      I couldn't easily find what "Pace" refers to since the word "pace," as in speed, is commonly used with the word "glacier" so I couldn't verify your claim either way.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 30, 2011 @04:49PM (#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.

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

    Oh? How? By the way the Island of Krakatoa had been in the Sundra strait for thousands of years, and then it disappeared overnight. This would dispel in one fell swoop any notion that volcanoes could be natural.

  • The Ward Hunt shelf started melting close to 100 years ago.

  • by dpilot (134227) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:04PM (#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.

    • by russotto (537200)

      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..

      In order to plan for it, one must be able to predict it. I don't have any confidence in climatologists to be able to predict the temperature increase, nor (to any useful level of detail) the effects of any temperature increase.

      When you get flattened by a giant rock, you're just as dead if the rock rolled off a cliff as

    • Both sides have their fair share of bullshit. Furthermore, getting oil and coal out of the ground and refining it (or in the case of Coal the byproducts of burning it) aren't good for the environment anyway, so their reduction should help certain things regardless of human CO2 output affecting global warming.
    • by Kaenneth (82978)

      Some marginally inhabitable places may become uninhabitable, but other uninhabitable places may become habitable.

      It's change, not always bad, or always good. Fighting against global warming is acting like the RIAA in the face of online music downloading. You arn't going to be able to stop it, so you best learn how to deal with it. Prepare to deal with people moving from flooded areas, and prepare to plant crops futher north in Canada/Siberia, those melted glaciers will expose rich virgin soil that will need

    • by microbox (704317)
      Intractable arguments are generally based on people being dishonest about what is really important to them. Climate science dissenters believe that the environment is robust, and that humans really cannot change it. Environmentalists, therefore, are naive control freaks that are going to interfere with the correct way that things should be run, and for no good reason. That is why there is no real discussion of the science -- the deniers really only care enough to say something that sounds good, so that they
  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Friday September 30, 2011 @03:24PM (#37571624)

    Global warming is happening.

    Why do we care whether global warming is human-caused, or not? Are we all Catholics trying to assess guilt? What does it matter whether or not global warming is human caused or not? Global warming is here and it is happening. The cow is already out of the barn.

    What's relevant is whether or not humans can alter the course of global warming.

  • We have had enough of voodoo science and liberal agenda dweebs! The answer is obvious why the ice is melting. Bird poop and pee! That's right migrating sea birds land on the ice and after a meal of fish poop and pee to their hearts content and that my friends warms the ice and that is why its melting. My name is Rick Perry and I endorse this message.

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