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Earth Science

Grim Picture of Polar Ice-Sheet Loss 412

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-ice-cube-miners dept.
ananyo writes "A global team of researchers has come up with the most accurate estimate yet for melting of the polar ice sheets, ending decades of uncertainty about whether the sheets will melt further or actually gain mass in the face of climate change. The ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at an ever-quickening pace. Since 1992, they have contributed 11 millimeters — or one-fifth — of the total global sea-level rise, say the researchers. The two polar regions are now losing mass three times faster than they were 20 years ago, with Greenland alone now shedding ice at about five times the rate observed in the early 1990s. This latest estimate, published this week in Science, draws on up to 32 years of ice-sheet simulations and 20 years of satellite data to give an estimate two to three times more accurate than that in the last IPCC report."
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Grim Picture of Polar Ice-Sheet Loss

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:12AM (#42141567)

    LALALAALAAA we can't hear you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      When shit eventually hits the fan, those fingers will be pointing blame... at someone.
      • by alexhs (877055)

        When shit eventually hits the fan, those fingers will be pointing blame... at someone.

        The US Army Corps of Engineers [businessweek.com] maybe ?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by infinitelink (963279)
          The USCOE constantly tells their superiors and those they serve what is needed, and they are routinely ignored. They told New Orleans and Louisiana for years, for instance, that the levees were insufficient and vulnerable, and they needed funding and to do this and that... others pointed-out that people shouldn't be permitted to get housing insurance in floodzones or move into certain areas residentially: the scheming asshats in office, however, preaching (on both sides of the aisle) for many decades that a
    • how many of the folks that come on here to blather on and on about politics, religion, global warming, abortion, drug use, etc are actually paid shills from a political party or some weird activist group. And how many just can't help themselves. I'm not choosing sides - I'm just amazed at the enormous amount of highly questionable data that gets tossed back and forth in these discussions, and I'm even more amazed at how many AC's (and others) act in perfect lock-step with each other on their data. I wouldn'
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rs79 (71822)

      Couple of things they fail to mention:

      1) A lot of that ice grew in the 1940s.
      http://news.ku.dk/all_news/2012/2012.5/glaciers_greenland_photos/ [news.ku.dk]
      "At the time many glaciers underwent a melt similar or even higher than what we have seen in the last ten years. When it became colder again in the 1950s and 1960s, glaciers actually started growing," says Dr. Kurt H. Kjær"

      "Kurt H. Kjær has previously worked with his colleague Svend Funder from Center for GeoGenetics on investigating sea ice extent in the Ar

      • by bunratty (545641)

        1. Given that the warming from AGW can been occurring since about 1970, I would imagine that most of what is melting now was frozen before 1970.

        2. The "unprecedented melt" referred to is a one-day melt, not a decades-long process like that we are experiencing under global warming and mentioned in this article.

        3. That article is from 2009. In 2012 the Arctic sea ice was far below any extent recorded since 1979.

        4. Antarctic sea ice is increasing because it's sliding off the continent of Antarctica due to the

  • I for one.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:14AM (#42141593)

    I for one look forward to being an island-dwelling overlord...

  • It's OK (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lije Baley (88936) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:16AM (#42141617)

    We have a spare on Mercury.

  • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:16AM (#42141627)

    Everybody raise their houses by 2cm, quick!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by skids (119237)

      55mm in 20 years, 11mm due to ice loss, a bunch more due to thermal expansion of the oceans which is also AGW-related.

      5cm may not sound like much to you, but to someone looking for a 30+ year real estate investment, and observing this trend of accelerating ocean rise, it will effect property valuations for some coastal property. Especially since the expectation is that, unchecked, this measurement will eventually be in meters.

      • by Zocalo (252965) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:38AM (#42141903) Homepage
        Got into a discussion about this recently over the recent (and on-going) flooding in the UK. If the sea level and temperatures both rise, then a logical expectation of that would be that more water would evaporate off the oceans into the atmosphere, subsequently returning as rain and snow. That would entail more runoff and a corresponding rise in river levels and increased risk of flooding, particularly given the growing pressure on housing in some areas resulting in flood plains being used for development.

        It's not just the people with beachfront properties that need to be worried...
        • If your prediction is correct, then global warming will be a good thing for places like California, which can definitely use more water (and have the means for storing it if it comes all at once). Most of the Western US has water shortages and would not be upset at all if there were more rain.
          • by tbannist (230135)

            Unfortunately, California and the Western U.S. will likely be on the on the end where more water evaporates and other areas, like Seattle maybe, will be on the end where "more water precipiates". So California and the Western U.S. are likely to become more desertified, and unfortunately when they do get rain, the risk of flash flooding will actually be worse because more rain will fall and the land will be less able to absorb it.

            Isn't climate change wonderful? The people who already "get too much rain" w

            • As mentioned elsewhere, climate models aren't accurate enough to predict climate changes for features smaller than the continental scale (read the IPCC report). So these predictions are mainly guesses. A lot of what happens to California rainfall will be determined by what happens with ENSO, which climate models are also unable to predict. So be doubtful any time someone gives such a specific prediction.

              In the case of California, it's not a problem if the rain comes more intensely, as long as there is m
          • by ballpoint (192660)

            Please toe the party line. Global warming is always and everywhere, per definition, bad. It cannot possibly have any positive effects anywhere. It does its deeds in such a way that evil is maximized. That's how nefarious it it.

            If you still don't understand, an example: if you are cold and your friend next door is hot, global warming will freeze you as dry as a funeral pyre and boil your friend in his flooded home. At the same time.

      • by agentgonzo (1026204) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:52AM (#42142099)

        but to someone looking for a 30+ year real estate investment, and observing this trend of accelerating ocean rise, it will effect property valuations for some coastal property.

        I live about 15 miles inland, so raising seas will actually increase my house value because I'll then be able to sell it as having a sea-view! /sarcasm

      • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Friday November 30, 2012 @11:19AM (#42142437)

        Everything is AGW related - hot spells, cold spells, droughts, floods, riots, earthquakes, locusts, hurricanes, doldrums - that's a cop out.

        The fact of the matter here is that 11mm in 20 years, or 55mm in 20 years, is ridiculously small. Seriously, 6 *centimeters* in 20 years. Even with a thirty year horizon, that's not more than 10 *centimeters*.

        Quick quiz: how much did ocean levels rise from 1900-2000, and how many acres of real estate were devalued because of it?

        As for acceleration, sea level rise is actually *slowing* - there's simply no possible plausible scenario that is going to turn *millimeters* of change into *meters* of change in in 20 years, or even 100 for that matter.

        • by skids (119237)

          there's simply no possible plausible scenario that is going to turn *millimeters* of change into *meters* of change in in 20 years

          Never said that. When buying a house, many purchasers want their kids and grandkids to be able to enjoy it as an inheritance. Coastal erosion is a well know source of devaluation. 5cm of average sea level rise translates to several meters on a flat beach.

          • Costal erosion is orders of magnitude more impactful than a 5cm average sea level rise. In fact, an average 5cm sea level rise tells you *nothing* about how local costal conditions are going to respond -> there are plenty of places where the high tide level *falls* even as "average sea level' is on the rise.

            Not to mention, a 5cm average sea level rise, even if completely evenly applied to every coastal area, is dwarfed by natural variation in tidal range.

            Oh, and nice trick turning centimeters of *height

      • by Glock27 (446276)

        55mm in 20 years, 11mm due to ice loss, a bunch more due to thermal expansion of the oceans which is also AGW-related.

        BS. If you look at the actual data [colorado.edu] you'll note that the rate of sea level rise has decreased since 2002. This is entirely inconsistent with a) the claim being made by these researchers and b) the idea that the current high levels of atmospheric CO2 are causing unusual warming, swamping natural variability.

        The ocean heat sink is supposed to receive something like 80% of the AGW related heat increase, causing thermal expansion as you state.

        "Forget the experimental evidence - it's ruining our beautiful theory!

        • by skids (119237)

          You are cherry picking data sources. Also, as with most data from natural sources, noise is expected, which is why we employ statistical analysis.

      • That's always been a concern [go.com]. To put it in perspective, continental drift is an order of magnitude faster than that.
  • by lorinc (2470890) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:19AM (#42141665) Homepage Journal

    Given that the article is pay-walled, is there any prediction about ice loss? What are the most recent predictions that have given accurate result in the past?

  • by actiondan (445169) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:19AM (#42141681)

    I predict:

    People who don't believe in AGW/man made climate change will think that this study is just part of the conspiracy

    Most people who do believe in AGW/man made climate change will continue to suggest remedies that just will not happen due to economics/human nature

    The small amount of actually useful discussion of how we can adapt to a changing climate (no matter what it's cause) will be drowned out in the accusations and counter accusations

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:37AM (#42141893) Homepage

      Here's my non-predicted reaction: We're boned.

      Specifically, we aren't going to do what's necessary until it's already too late, because humans do a really bad job of responding to threats that aren't immediate. I won't be surprised if some people manage to adapt and survive, but it's going to be very messy, expensive, and violent (desperate people do not just lay down and die quietly), and there's no way those who survive will have the same standard of living as a typical modern American.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:41AM (#42141935)

      The small amount of actually useful discussion of how we can adapt to a changing climate (no matter what it's cause) will be drowned out in the accusations and counter accusations

      Well, the good news is that the status of the atmosphere, and the survival of the human species, does not depend on discussions on slashdot.

      The bad news is that it instead depends on discussions between politicians, lobbyists, and voters.

    • Humans you know, this planet is full of them!!

    • by Danathar (267989)

      How very well stated.

    • I have my solution! Want to hear it?

      Just like every good hero, rather than slaying the beast, we defeat it by letting it do what it does, but not matter. So let the ice melt, so long as we can displace the extra water. Build autonomous drills that just crawl the sea floor and start poking holes, giving the water somewhere to go
    • by na1led (1030470)
      Earth has a fever, and humans are the virus.
    • by Gripp (1969738)
      So... for me it is not that I do not believe in it. I truly feel that we need to do better at achieving a low impact on our environment, yes.... But what I *do* have a problem with is that we can't even accurately predict the weather on the day of the prediction (just yesterday morning I was fooled into thinking it would be in the 80's - we didn't pass the 60's) much less act like we know what long term effects these "remedies" will create. What happens if we do actually artificially slow global warming
    • People who don't believe in AGW/man made climate change will think that this study is just part of the conspiracy
      Most people who do believe in AGW/man made climate change will continue to suggest remedies that just will not happen due to economics/human nature

      Then some of us will wait until our subscription of Science arrives so we can actually read the study before making fools of ourselves in ignorance.

  • Well, at least snow and ice definitely don't have some of the highest Albedo values among terrestrial surface coverings, so losing them won't increase absorption of solar radiation at all!

    • Well, at least snow and ice definitely don't have some of the highest Albedo values among terrestrial surface coverings,

      It's a liberal consipracy that most ice is white---that's the color of surrender and what liberals want you to believe. Have you ever been to the poles to check? No, so stop believeing the propaganda and get the facts [timecube.com]. And don't come back whining to me until you've read all of that primary source.

  • no rapid melting (Score:2, Informative)

    by kenorland (2691677)

    The study excludes suggestions of rapid melting: "Antarctica is not losing ice as rapidly as suggested by many recent studies. What’s more, snowfall in east Antarctica still seems to be compensating for some — but not all — of the melting elsewhere in Antarctica." It generally just seems to confirm what people had been assuming was happening anyway: a modest amount of melting in response to increasing temperatures. Note that melting from ice sheets only accounts for 20% of total sea level

  • I don't quite understand what the summary is saying here. If it is an estimate, how can they know that it is accurate? Was this estimate a prediction made some time ago, and has since been verified by measurement?
  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:29AM (#42141789)

    So, you came up with a model that accurately predicts the past?

    What nonesense is that? The accuracy of a model can only be determined by testing it against reality, and not against the data it has been fitted to. You need new data to do that and I'm sorry to tell you that new annual data sets will arrive only at a pace of one per year.

    Meanwhile, shut up and look at the models you've made so far and be ashamed of the constant revisions in both directions.

    In any other branch of science coming up with the kind of models and inaccuracies that climate science comes up with, scientists would simply say .. well, sorry, we cannot model these processes with any degree of accuracy and be done with it. If you came up with a better model, well, good for you, but now you have to *prove* it is actually better than all the rest so far.

    • I love posts like this. Is it caused by your blinding arrogance making you assume that you're vastly more intelligent and knowledgable that the scientists or is it caused by some misguided political philosophy which causes you to reject inconvenient facts.

      What's more amusing is your complete ignorance of science:

      In any other branch of science coming up with the kind of models and inaccuracies that climate science comes up with, scientists would simply say .. well, sorry, we cannot model these processes with

  • by Coisiche (2000870) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:29AM (#42141793)

    Problem is that for most people it doesn't gel with their personal experience.

    If The Scotsman newspaper runs this news then it's a guarantee that for a couple of days following the article the letters page would be full of "It was snowing here; so much for global warming" and "But I saw ice on the ground this morning" and similar variants.

    And yes, I know it's my own fault for reading the letters page in The Scotsman.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dkleinsc (563838)

      This is not a new problem. For instance, The Daily Show [thedailyshow.com] described the issue brilliantly almost 2 years ago.

  • There isn't actually a picture!

  • It's been happening for the the last 12K Years, I think it is about time someone took notice.
    • It's been happening for the the last 12K Years, I think it is about time someone took notice.

      Really? Do you have a reference for that? I would be really interested in knowing about it.

  • I have it on good authority that Techno Viking [youtube.com] is excitedly awaiting the construction of his summer home in northern Greenland.

  • And once queued, we'll cue them one by one.

  • by Psicopatico (1005433) <psicopatico@NoSp ... delrutto.zzn.com> on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:57AM (#42142145)

    Polar ice is Cartesian ice after a coordinate trasformation.

  • The ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at an ever-quickening pace. Since 1992, they have contributed 11 millimeters — or one-fifth — of the total global sea-level rise

    The ice sheets in Antarctica are growing. It's the only reliable good news.
    One fifth? Where's the other 4/5th coming from?

  • Sea Level (Score:4, Insightful)

    by deimtee (762122) on Friday November 30, 2012 @11:06AM (#42142247) Journal
    Easiest way to fix sea level rises is to dig two channels.
    Connect the Caspian Sea and the Dead Sea (and the rest of the Great Rift Valley) to the open ocean and watch the water level drop.
  • by KalvinB (205500) on Friday November 30, 2012 @11:13AM (#42142349) Homepage

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/greenland-used-to-be-green.htm [skepticalscience.com]

    Lots of things cause climate change.

  • If the sea level would just rise about 30 more meters or so my house would be on the beach, plus -- and this is a big plus -- no one would ever have to smell New Jersey again.

  • US atmospheric carbon emissions have declined 20% [nytimes.com] since the mid-2000s peak. The main reason is conversion from coal to natural gas electricity. Secondary reasons are the Great Recession economic decline and the start of stronger Obama efficiency requirements. By 2015 the US should achieve the Kyoto treaty standards of 6% below 1990 levels.

    The US becomes the biggest reducer due to being the 2nd largest carbon producer and its production decline.

    The US shift to natural gas regulation was not because

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