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Earth Science

ESA's Cryosat Mission Sees Antarctic Ice Losses Double 162

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with news that seems to confirm the alarming reports last week about Antarctic ice melting. "The new assessment comes from Europe's Cryosat spacecraft, which has a radar instrument specifically designed to measure the shape of the ice sheet. The melt loss from the White Continent is sufficient to push up global sea levels by around 0.43mm per year. Scientists report the data in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (abstract). The new study incorporates three years of measurements from 2010 to 2013, and updates a synthesis of observations made by other satellites over the period 2005 to 2010. Cryosat has been using its altimeter to trace changes in the height of the ice sheet — as it gains mass through snowfall, and loses mass through melting."
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ESA's Cryosat Mission Sees Antarctic Ice Losses Double

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  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday May 19, 2014 @01:57PM (#47039795)

    So, sea level rise will be a bit less than two inches by 2100?

    And nearly 3.5 inches by 2200?

    As a result of Antarctic ice melting, of course.

    Color me unworried. I wasn't terribly impressed when people were talking a foot this century - a sixth of that is a complete yawner as far as threats go....

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2014 @01:59PM (#47039815)

      Hey, illiterate, that is simply from one source not the entire source of sea levels rising.

    • by WhiteZook (3647835) on Monday May 19, 2014 @02:02PM (#47039845)
      Of course, there's more than just Antarctic ice melting, but more importantly, it is likely that the melting rate will accelerate as the planet keeps warming.
      • Sounds great. If it is not part of a natural cycle, but anthropogenic in origin, that's fantastic. What a wonderful possibility, that our species might not have to weather any more ice ages on this planet. But I guess we don't really know for certain.
        • by geekoid (135745)

          It as AGW and we d know for sure.

          Why do you think it will stop when the glaciers have melted? It's going to keep going up if we keep allowing deniers to have a say in policy.

          • and there it is (Score:2, Interesting)

            by dlt074 (548126)

            "if we keep allowing deniers to have a say in policy."

            that's what it's all about right there. CONTROL. can't very well let people who disagree to have any say in policy. that would be nuts. we know what's best for everyone. we will make the hard decisions for the greater good. you stupid people get out of our way. we know best.

            nothing worse then a bunch of people who know they are smarter then everyone else.

        • by dryeo (100693)

          Our species has evolved to live in this cold climate and if it gets back to 30+ degrees celsius ocean temperatures near the poles we may have problems

    • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday May 19, 2014 @02:07PM (#47039889) Homepage Journal

      The big secret(I don't know why it's a secret) is that melting ice has never been the biggest source of sea level change from climate change. Never. Contrary to what most people learn in middle school science classes, temperature does affect slightly the volume of liquids, and the increasing temperature of the deep ocean drive changes in volume. Tiny fraction decreases in the density of water might not seem like much, but it adds up to a lot more than a little melting sea ice when the average depth of the ocean is 2.4 kilometers.

      • by WhiteZook (3647835) on Monday May 19, 2014 @02:11PM (#47039929)
        Actually, this recent study claims that in the years 2005-2011, contribution from melting ice was 3 times as high as thermal expansion of the oceans: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/jou... [nature.com]
        • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday May 19, 2014 @02:14PM (#47039957) Homepage Journal

          Interesting. So... I have to admit I made a factual error in my post.

          I shouldn't have used the word "never", it was apparently quite hyperbolic.

          • No worries, just modify your original statement somewhat and you're still good. Thermal expansion is still important.
      • They're talking about melting LAND ice, not SEA ice. Compare sea levels today to those at the Last Glacial Maximum (~120 meters lower), and ask yourself where the extra water came from.

        • I think you're misunderstanding my position here.

          • Your position seems to be "melting ice has never been the biggest source of sea level change from climate change". If so, this is not correct.

        • Obviously, Global Warming on a Massive Scale caused the 120 Meter Sea level change. And yet, life (including human) continues.

          • by rahvin112 (446269)

            The last time the earth had atmospheric concentrations of CO2 of 400ppm there weren't any humans. We were a species born of the ice age (at least all the evidence points to the early primates leaving the trees because all the trees in the area died during the ice age when the area turned into grassland).

            • by Arker (91948)
              The birth of Primates and the birth of our species are only separated by about 60 million years, a period during which many ice ages have come and gone. Conflating the two and vaguely associating them with an ice age really does not mean much.
              • by rahvin112 (446269)

                The birth of the order primates in relationship to the birth of humans has little to nothing to do with what I said. As I noted research has indicated that the selection pressure that caused homo sapiens development was a switch in climate triggered by an ice age, but this has little to nothing to do with the birth of the order primate.

                We are a species that is and was born during the ice age cycles and our very development was directly related to those ice ages. Those ice ages are something we may very well

          • And yet, hundreds of millions of people and their supporting cities and other physical infrastructure weren't sitting in coastal zones when that happened.

          • by dryeo (100693)

            Only some types of human. Neanderthals, a type of Human, didn't adapt so well. Life itself will continue on baring a major accident until the Sun itself gets hot enough to boil the oceans, perhaps a billion years and who knows after that.

            • by gtall (79522)

              Maybe. See Venus. It has a runaway greenhouse effect. Systems theory is really neat.

              • by dryeo (100693)

                Venus quite likely had oceans until the Sun warmed up enough to boil them. Once the oceans boil you really get a greenhouse affect from the water vapor, the water gets disassociated into hydrogen and oxygen, the hydrogen gets lost to space and the oxygen combines with carbon, nitrogen etc. Limestone may breakdown as well and release a lot of sequestered carbon. No tectonic activity to suck carbon into the mantle either, just resurfacing every few billion years which likely releases more carbon.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Melting of all ice would about 60+ meter increase in ocean depth.

      • by dkf (304284)

        Contrary to what most people learn in middle school science classes, temperature does affect slightly the volume of liquids

        Well duh! How do you think normal domestic and lab thermometers work? They've got a liquid in them that expands as temperature rises, and that's been calibrated. Yes, they usually use alcohol or mercury (depending on the intended temperature range) but water's not really that much different. (Except between 0C and about 4C, when it is weird!)

        OK, so there's other ways that are used too, but liquid-based temperature measurements are still very common.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Just from that alone. also, it has doubles it's spead since last observed.

      A loss of all the ice in the six glaciers would add about 1.2m to global sea level.

      This is still a small fraction of the total sea-level potential of Antarctica, which holds something like 26.5 million cubic km ice (or 58m of sea-level rise equivalent).

    • Hey, at least its real data that hasn't been blown completely out of proportion. Normally a story like this would have a headline that read "Noah back from the dead to rebuild Ark! God said he wouldn't do it again but now he's just mad at republicans!" etc...

      • Hey, at least its real data that hasn't been blown completely out of proportion. Normally a story like this would have a headline that read "Noah back from the dead to rebuild Ark! God said he wouldn't do it again but now he's just mad at his fellow republicans!" etc...

        ftfy

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday May 19, 2014 @02:24PM (#47040033)
      I don't think anyone was suggesting it was going to be total devastation since before "Waterworld" came out, but you should be asking "How much of my tax dollars are going to be spent on things like disaster relief after more levees and such break" or "How much more expensive is food going to get because all the good farmland is in floodplains that are now going to have higher insurance premiums for flooding?" Because the answer is going to be more than you want even if you're smug that your house is more than a few inches above sea level.
      • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday May 19, 2014 @02:28PM (#47040061) Homepage Journal

        No, see, only government intervention can harm an economy. It's right there in their political philosophy, so it must be a true.

      • by bigpat (158134) on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:24PM (#47040483)

        This implies that stopping greenhouse emissions cold turkey doesn't have real costs that outweigh the potential problems you cite. So far all the solutions that are proposed by the most active main stream environmentalists like cap and trade or solar and wind build outs either won't make a dent in Global Climate Change and/or taken as holistic solutions would cause massive disruptions to the economy with some very negative consequences that would very likely outweigh the benefits.

        In the US, we have spent the last 40 years on conservation and pollution controls and the result has been an export of much of our industrial base to China where they pollute more freely with a coal based economy and then ship back those cheaper goods on great big ships, trains and trucks. Has it even made a dent Globally or just moved the problems of pollution to China? Possibly, that historic movement of production partly based on cheap labor, but also partly based on US environmentalism, has even accelerated CO2 emissions. Certainly, the US is somewhat less polluted especially in some urban and downwind areas which is good. But thinking Globally means we can't just think of short term localized benefits when we tally up the good and the bad for the bottom line.

        We could be 100% greenhouse free in 20 years if we embraced a mix of solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and most importantly nuclear. But without nuclear it is going to be fracked Natural Gas, Oil and Coal providing the majority of our base load for our electric grid and the majority of fuel for our cars and trucks. The good news is that natural gas is less polluting than coal and oil and might fill the gap and slow down CO2 emissions while we reassess our collective priorities, but the bad news for Global Climate change is that a change to natural gas from oil and coal just slows down Global Warming a bit and it isn't a longer term solution and we will be back to coal not too long after that if we don't get to a more sustainable energy system.

        If people on all sides get serious about Global Climate change and want to slam on the breaks to try and simply lock in a few feet of sea level rise and some slightly warmer temperatures in the next three hundred years, then the way to do that is with a tripling of nuclear power capacity with existing technology and much bigger multi-Billion dollar investments in new nuclear power technologies, along with some solar and wind power to supplement.

        Otherwise much of what many in the environmental movement have been talking about for the last few decades has been a meaningless distraction from the engineers task of making more efficient use of our resources to support the largest population in human history as best we can. Both sides need to get real if we are going to make the world a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable place for billions of people.

        • by Atzanteol (99067)

          Actually - from what I can tell most of the climate scientists just want a rational conversation about the situation much like what you've done here. If *that* were the reply from climate change contrarians then we'd finally have a discussion and potential ideas on solutions (probably with a mixture of preparing for the worst while doing what we can to stop it).

          But that would be all too rational.

          • It is not just the "contrarians" that are the problem.

            The general public are like ostriches in the sand on this as are the politicians - even the one not on the payroll of you know who.

            In my country for example the right wing government of the day whose leader has in the past said that it does not exist has now reneged on that and accepts it exists. (for political reasons of course much like his original answer)
            But they trashed the policy on emission reduction as soon as entering power, pulled out of kyoto
          • by bigpat (158134)

            I think there is plenty of fault on all sides. From the climate scientists and many environmentalists the attitude has seemingly been once that you prove that humans are causing some climate change that it automatically means that we have to stop whatever is causing that climate change... which seems to be why somewhat cynically many have taken the attitude that in order to respond to the call for drastic, disruptive and destructive change to our industrial and energy base that we have to snipe at the sci

            • by Atzanteol (99067)

              "From the climate scientists and many environmentalists the attitude has seemingly been once that you prove that humans are causing some climate change that it automatically means that we have to stop whatever is causing that climate chang"

              Well, sure. They're climate scientists not policy makers! The correct response to this is much more like what you've outlined - not to disparage the scientists, claim they're liars, and deny the evidence (which is what's happened).

              It wouldn't be a conversation if there

        • Unfortunately, I think you're mostly right. The second biggest elephant in the room is our untested, unknown and purely hypothetical ability do what amounts to re terraforming the planet. The biggest elephant is our (planetwide) political will to do something other than piss in each other's Cheerios.

          Beginning to smell like a whole lotta elephant in here.

        • by dbIII (701233)

          In the US, we have spent the last 40 years on conservation and pollution controls and the result has been an export of much of our industrial base to China

          Actually a lot of that was due to protectionism pushing local steel prices high enough that it was much cheaper to move any industry that relied on steel somewhere else.

        • by dbIII (701233)
          It became an issue where two political parties could define a difference for their voters. With such petty tribalism the truth became secondary to slogans. Now it has got the the point where experts are demonized just for being experts and not cheerleaders. That there are "sides" in this issue at all is just a political artifice to pander to the "God created the Earth and he was such a puny God that nothing could change since then" crowd.
    • by jovius (974690)

      Let's imagine for a bit. Tomorrow you'll be tasked to raise the total sea level by 0.43mm / year. How would you do it? It is pretty impressive.

      • by sycodon (149926)

        Whack all the gauges with a hammer into the mud an inch or so. There's a lot of them, but it'd be funny as hell.

    • by prefec2 (875483)

      Your assumptions would be true if melting ice would be the only effect on the sea water level and the melting itself would be a linear process. However, there are other effects.

      a) Due to a rising global temperature the ocean temperature is also rising in the upper water layers. These masses do also expand.
      b) When the glacier speed in Antarctica is picking up more speed, as it is right now, the melting will increase and also will the rise in sea level.
      c) The greater introduction of sweet water in Antarctica

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      From the abstract:

      However, the average rate of ice thinning in West Antarctica has also continued to rise, and mass losses from this sector are now 31% greater than over the period 2005–2011.

      You assume the rate of 0.43 mm per year will continue until 2100. Do you have anything to back that up? All evidence indicates that the rate will continue to rise as time goes on.

    • Results indicate that most recession occurred during the middle to late Holocene in the absence of substantial sea level or climate forcing. Current grounding-line retreat may reflect ongoing ice recession that has been under way since the early Holocene. If so, the WAIS could continue to retreat even in the absence of further external forcing
      Past and Future Grounding-Line Retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet [sciencemag.org] H. Conway1, B. L. Hall2,3, G. H. Denton2, A. M. Gades1, E. D. Waddington1
      Science 8 October 199

    • you sound like the type of person who wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire....
  • Our corporate overlords who would have us do nothing about climate change.

    After all, our Galtian supermen overlords can pay to make the problem disappear for themselves, and us useless eaters can just go and die of starvation, disease -- and war, when the 3 billion-odd even-more-useless eaters show up on our borders, demanding their rights.

    It's the American way. Let freedom ring!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Averaged global increase isn't that interesting. How about better information on local changes. Which areas will be effected the most by this melting? Whats the possible range of total increase instead of averaging it out across the entire ocean. Will the water temperature change be enough to alter any normal currents?

    • So it has predictably come to this for some people:

      "Think local, act... wait, let's first see if my neighbourhood might benefit at others' expense before deciding."

  • History? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Monday May 19, 2014 @02:41PM (#47040189) Homepage

    What historical observations is this to be compared with? By the sounds of it there is nothing prior to 2005 - certainly nothing in the 40s thru 80s. Given that the few researchers down there are not running around the perimeter of the continent checking on where ice ends and sea begins, how do we place the current observation in context? Seems that we can't.

    • Re:History? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WhiteZook (3647835) on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:19PM (#47040451)
      I don't think there's much useful ice volume data before special satellites were used to measure it. However, we can look at historical sea level data, and observe that levels have not been significantly higher in any period since the last ice age. We can also look at the temperature data, and try to model the ice sheet based on those. Since temperatures before 2005 have been lower, it is very unlikely ice loss was as great as it has been in the recent years.
    • Nothing prior to 2005? High School and my first marriage didn't exist?

      Phew! That makes me feel much better.

    • That's your history right there. You can see melting period / snow period in the ice core.
    • by Xyrus (755017)

      What historical observations is this to be compared with? By the sounds of it there is nothing prior to 2005 - certainly nothing in the 40s thru 80s. Given that the few researchers down there are not running around the perimeter of the continent checking on where ice ends and sea begins, how do we place the current observation in context? Seems that we can't.

      Reading is a useful skill. Practice it. The research cites their sources and methods. Feel free to disagree and put forward your own work to show why they're wrong.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      "International Geophysical Year Antarctica" is a useful google search term for those that should have know better before posting something putting down the expertise of others.
  • My state asked that the 100 year sea-level study be revised to only predict for 30 years - looks like we'll be seeing a .3 inch increase in that time so it may not satisfy the right's desire to see low numbers that they can wave away.

  • Funny thing (Score:2, Informative)

    by QuantumSam (1069182)
    The ice sheet may be coming apart up in the whitw continent, but that's where several volcanoes are located. Active volcanoes. As in HOT. As for the rest of Antarctica, the ice is at a 30 year high. Here: chew on some better data http://judithcurry.com/2014/02... [judithcurry.com] http://wattsupwiththat.com/201... [wattsupwiththat.com] http://wp.me/P7y4l-5Kc [wp.me] http://wattsupwiththat.com/201... [wattsupwiththat.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is completely ridiculous. Parts of the Antarctic icecap are indeed increasing. This is due to higher humidity as a result of -- wait for it -- global warming. Other parts are rapidly decreasing. And the volcanoes? Well, you know, they are so hot that it is well-known that all volcanoes outside of the Antarctic have no snow on the summits, of course.

    • Re:Funny thing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WhiteZook (3647835) on Monday May 19, 2014 @03:31PM (#47040545)
      Sounds like somebody needs to learn the big difference between Antarctic sea ice and grounded ice.
    • Re:Funny thing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Monday May 19, 2014 @04:50PM (#47041145) Homepage

      It's so funny that you think sceptic websites are good sources. How about linking to some actual scientific studies? Oh, but wait, the links you gave cite studies? Yes, but they confused sea ice and ground ice, which you might have realized if you had gone to the actual data and understood it.

      I'm afraid this is all that climate sceptics have to offer - misinterpreted data.

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      If you compare the heat put out by all the volcanoes in Antarctica to the heat required to melt 160 GT/year you'll find that you need several orders of magnitude more volcanoes to melt that much ice.

    • Re:Funny thing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rahvin112 (446269) on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:34PM (#47041535)

      And if you had actually read the real research those garbage stories are referring to you would know that those volcano's have little to no effect on the ice sheet because the ice refreezes almost immediately after it's melted due to the fact that it's under several hundred (up to thousands) feet of ice. Hell, even the steam vents refreeze all the moisture in the air before the gases reach open air (creating some rather magnificent stalactites and ice formations).

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      You're citing Judith Curry and WUWT in a climate discussion. You may as well cite The Onion and The Weekly World News. They have almost as much credibility, and are a hell of a lot more entertaining.

    • Re:Funny thing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by OneAhead (1495535) on Monday May 19, 2014 @08:43PM (#47042807)

      Here: chew on some better data

      ...because everyone knows a blog that is heavily funded by the Heartland Institute [wikipedia.org] must be better than direct satellite measurements.

      And no, this is not an ad hominem; I'm not necessarily saying WUWT must necessarily be terrible purely because they have undeclared [wattsupwiththat.com] conflicts of interest, I'm just attacking your ridiculous qualifier better. How can you possibly argue that the quality of data on a blog with undeclared conflicts of interest is better data than direct satellite measurements? Your "better" just seems to mean "confirms my preconceptions [wikipedia.org]".

      Though let's not kid ourselves, WUWT is terrible. Every time I visit it, I find huge embarrassing mistakes any BA in science could spot.

  • ...so, let's do math .43mm/year = 4.43mm/decade

    4.43mm/decaed = 44.3mm/century

    44.3mm/century = 4.43cm/century

    So, a little less than 2 inches in 100 years.

    Is this supposed to worry us?

    • ...so, let's do math .43mm/year = 4.43mm/decade

      4.43mm/decaed = 44.3mm/century

      44.3mm/century = 4.43cm/century

      So, a little less than 2 inches in 100 years.

      Is this supposed to worry us?

      It's the difference between a storm surge 50 miles from a major city and a storm surge 10 miles from a major city.

      Does that help?

      • 2 inches will turn a storm surge 40 more miles inland?

        Wow. Maybe we could fix that by laying down a *single* layer of sandbags :)

    • Re:.43mm/year... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by riverat1 (1048260) on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:35PM (#47041545)

      Assuming the rate of melt will remain the same for the next 100 years really puts the ass in assume.

      • Assuming that the rate of melt will increase at some exponential rate for the next 100 years really puts the ass in assume too :)

        This is like worrying that increasing the speed limit from 55 to 65 means that eventually, the speed limit will be 10,000mph :)

        • by riverat1 (1048260)

          Touche.

          But I assume (there's that word again) you saw the recent post on the unstability of the West Antarctic ice sheet. [slashdot.org] That finding pretty much guarantees 10 feed of sea level rise in the next several hundred years.

        • no it doesn't, the speed limit analogy is complete shit and nothing like exponential warming
    • its going to increase over the years, it won't be .43mm every year, as it gets warmer, it melts quicker.. but your humanity impresses us by wanting to keep the status quo not caring about what comes after us..
  • by Kazoo the Clown (644526) on Monday May 19, 2014 @05:05PM (#47041295)
    We all know that Global Warming is a hoax and conspiracy, so this just has to be BS. No amount of evidence could ever contradict that well known fact.
  • The warmest temperature recorded at Amundsen-Scott south pole station during the last 12 months was -21F in January, 2014. For those unfamiliar with the physics of water phase change or the fahrenheit scale, that balmy temperature is still 53 degrees fahrenheit below the freezing point of water. If there is melting going on in Antarctica, it must be due to subsurface volcanic activity and not bikini weather at the antarctica beaches.

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