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Earth Science

Shrinking Waves May Save Antarctic Sea Ice 298

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-wake-zone dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "It's a nagging thorn in the side of climatologists: Even though the world is warming, the average area of the sea ice around Antarctica is increasing. Climate models haven't explained this seeming contradiction to anyone's satisfaction—and climate change deniers tout that failure early and often. But a new paper suggests a possible explanation: Variability in the heights of ocean waves pounding into the sea ice may help control its advance and retreat."
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Shrinking Waves May Save Antarctic Sea Ice

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  • by raymorris (2726007) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:39AM (#47117217)

    This is just another one of the many, many balancing mechanisms in nature. Another obvious one is that more heat causes more evaporation, which causes more clouds, which causes less heat. Mother nature I has thousands of such negative feedback cycles that tend to buffer against changes.

    • by BasilBrush (643681) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @04:29AM (#47117383)

      There's no such beneficent entity as Mother Nature, keeping everything just so. Species go extinct often, because their environment changes.

      • We're a species too.

        • by niado (1650369)

          We're a species too.

          And some scientists believe that we have been drawn much closer to extinction [wikipedia.org] that one might think. Our close relatives the Neanderthal [wikipedia.org] and Denisovan [wikipedia.org] were not so lucky.

          • by Jmc23 (2353706)
            um, that's because we're very good at murdering our close relatives.
          • I entirely agree. After I posted I thought something along the lines of "just another species" was closer to what I meant.

            Surprised nobody's been along to say that we're different because we were created in His image, or somesuch.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        There's no such beneficent entity as Mother Nature, keeping everything just so.

        No, but there is a condition of relative homeostasis which has persisted longer than humanity, which our actions have managed to perturb in a way which may not be recoverable on a human timescale. By all means, ramble on about the particulars of nonsense while reality sneaks up on you and prepares to bite you in the ass.

    • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @06:27AM (#47117723) Journal

      more heat causes more evaporation, which causes more clouds, which causes less heat.

      There is no such balancing effect. Clouds can reduce or can increase heating, both, depending on local climate and time-of-day.

      Furthermore, water vapor is a powerful greenhouse gas. You don't want more of it!

      "Because water vapor is a greenhouse gas, this results in further warming and so is a 'positive feedback' that amplifies the original warming."

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      "On balance, scientists arenâ(TM)t entirely sure what effect clouds will have on global warming. Most climate models predict that clouds will amplify global warming slightly."

      http://www.earthobservatory.na... [nasa.gov]

      "Therefore, the overall net effect of contrails is positive, i.e. a warming effect. However, the effect varies daily and annually"

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • > On balance, scientists aren't entirely sure what effect clouds will have on global warming. Most climate models predict that clouds will amplify global warming slightly.

        That sentence lumps professional alarmists in with actual scientists. Never been outside on a cloudy day? Those "scientists" (alarmists) who say clouds make it hot are the same ones who you said San Francisco would be underwater by the year 2010. Don't let their silly pseudo-science make you doubt the obvious facts of your experience. Y

        • by Layzej (1976930) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @10:15AM (#47118965)

          Your intuition fails you in this case (and the scientific method is in fact your friend). It turns out we can measure this with the CERES satellite and we find that low thick clouds cast a refreshing shadow and reflect sunlight back into space, while high wispy clouds reflect little sunlight but will trap the infrared heat beneath them.

          CERES is a package of three telescopes that watch our planet from Earth orbit. "One telescope is sensitive to ordinary sunlight," says Wielicki. "It tells us how much solar radiation is reflected from clouds or ice." The other two telescopes sense longer-wavelength infrared heat. They reveal how much heat is trapped by clouds and how much of it escapes back to space. - http://science.nasa.gov/scienc... [nasa.gov]

          • by sabri (584428)

            while high wispy clouds reflect little sunlight but will trap the infrared heat beneath them.

            No no no no you are mistaken my friend. These high wispy clouds are the result of the Chemtrails! This is being used by the government to make us obey. Look around, some people are now even wearing apparel that brings this message. *folds another aluminum hat*

          • by riverat1 (1048260)

            Not only that but clouds at night will always hold in heat and clouds near the terminator may actually reflect sunlight back down toward the Earth.

        • by evilviper (135110)

          Don't let their silly pseudo-science make you doubt the obvious facts of your experience. You know that when it's cloudy, it's cooler.

          Only in summer, during the daylight hours. Clouds at night unquestionably keep temperatures WARMER than it would be without them.

    • by savuporo (658486)

      Yep, thats what they were saying on Venus and Mars just a billion years ago.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:55AM (#47117269)

    ... and poorly recorded ones at that.

    Look... if its relevant then its relevant... its just inconvenient to have yet more variables complicating the calculations.

    Do we have a proxy value for these waves yet? Some correlating calculation like the orbits of the planets/moon/oscillation of the earth somehow boiling down to wave heights in location X? Because that would be useful. Short of that, we're back got square one with our historic calculations and we need to put some buoys out around Antarctica to build up a data set.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    let's say the ice is thinning in shedding a lot of frigid water... that stuff may make new ice at the edges which makes it look bigger in terms of area, but volume has been lost. It's the loss of volume that translates into rising sea levels.

  • On any other topic this name calling is derided as an ad hominen attack.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You can't reason a man out of a position he wasn't reasoned into.

      The "climate change deniers" hold the position they do as an article of faith or wishful thinking. Scientifically the debate was over decades ago. So a collective noun to describe them like "creationists" for the anti-evolution crowd is entirely appropriate.

      If this collective noun has negative connotations then that is entirely appropriate for a group of people trying to hold back society from addressing a very serious issue.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You can't reason a man out of a position he wasn't reasoned into.

        Blind faith doesn't exist, there is always reasoning no matter how shallow it is. Thinking that someone didn't reason is just another way of dehumanizing him.
        Everyone can be reasoned out of a position, you just can't do it by calling him an idiot.
        Claiming that someone is following blind faith when your argument is referring to authority is also not a good choice. If I don't know the climatologist refereed to and believe in him then there is just as much blind faith in that argument as there would be if you

      • Yeah deniers. Round em up and put them all in one place where the are concentrated. The can have their own camps and stop ruining our society. Yeah thats worked in the past. SIGH
      • by tmosley (996283) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @09:04AM (#47118387)
        What if you just refuse to see the reasoning that lead them there?

        Creationism would be a reasonable position if there were significant evidence of a creator (there isn't). AGW "denial" would be reasonable if there were an argument that the amount of CO2 we have put and are putting into the atmosphere won't cause a feedback loop.

        And there is, if you would put pen to paper and make the calculations yourself, assuming you understand a little physical chemistry. CO2 has a very thin IR spectrum chart that integrates to a very low number, meaning it is shit at absorbing heat. Water vapor has a gigantic broad "peak" that swamps most other signals to the point that you can't even tell when other stuff is present with highly sophisticated equipment that only looks at the IR spectrum.

        Of note, the other product of combustion is water vapor. Irrigation forces more water vapor into the air. Paving forces more water vapor into the air. Even the cooling towers of nuclear power plants force more water vapor into the air. These things happen on a continuous basis, so the world is on average more humid by perhaps 1% than it was 100 years ago. Which would be more than enough to account for ALL observed warming.

        What are the implications for this? It means that most of the wild scenarios dreamed up by the AGW people that lead to mass death and starvation or extinction are unlikely. CO2 stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years on average, where water vapor falls out in a few days. This tight equilibrium means that we can self correct easily, as economic deterioration due to climate change will decrease the amount of water vapor we push into the air by a mechanism of tearing up unused roads (seen in recently in Detroit), reducing combustion, less irrigation, etc.

        But by all means, paint everyone who doesn't blindly agree with the god "Science" (rather than following the scientific method) with the same brush. It's not like your nonsensical belief will change physics in your "favor". One can only hope that those of you who continue to cling to AGW theory are rightfully marginalized, and removed from your priest-like positions in government, as those guys can and do do REAL damage based off of bad theory.
        • by Layzej (1976930)

          Of note, the other product of combustion is water vapor. Irrigation forces more water vapor into the air. Paving forces more water vapor into the air.

          Possibly, but how much water vapour air will hold is a function of how hot it is. Spray water into the air in winter and you will still have low humidity. Heat the planet and you will end up with more humidity. This is a feedback - and as you note - a serious one.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by tmosley (996283)
            Not really. The moisture holding capacity of air doesn't really increase that quickly in the temperature range we are talking about: http://www.engineeringtoolbox.... [engineeringtoolbox.com]

            And further, human addition of water vapor is a slowly moving equilibrium that will be quickly pushed back when something "breaks" and thus causes economic damage. For example, depleting a major aquifer will lead to decreased irrigation levels which leads to an economic decline that causes roads to be torn up and emissions to be reduced d
            • by Layzej (1976930)

              The site you have linked shows that atmospheric moisture holding capacity increases dramatically with increasing temperature. The increase is exponential across the curve. That is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to claim. Further, oceanic lower-tropospheric water vapour has increased by about 4% since the 1970's, which is consistent with what we should expect given temperature increases over the period.

              "Observations of oceanic lower-tropospheric water vapour reveal substantial variability d

        • by mbkennel (97636)
          | Of note, the other product of combustion is water vapor. Irrigation forces more water vapor into the air. Paving forces more water vapor into the air. Even the cooling towers of nuclear power plants force more water vapor into the air. These things happen on a continuous basis, so the world is on average more humid by perhaps 1% than it was 100 years ago. Which would be more than enough to account for ALL observed warming.

          Silly person, water is in statistical equilibrium with the oceans, direct human inje
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BasilBrush (643681)

      No avenue of anti-science earns respect.
      Deniers of the earth being millions of years old.
      Deniers of man being a species of ape.
      Deniers of evolution.
      Deniers of tobacco being a carcinogen.
      Deniers of the moon landings.

      When you put your politics, religion or paranoia ahead science, you deserve to be marginalised.

      • by physicsphairy (720718) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @08:03AM (#47118051) Homepage

        By all means, less likely views should be marginalized, but they should be marginalized as a side effect of their having only a marginal chance of being correct, not because you've built up some vicious characterization of their adherents. It's interesting that in the reasons you list for your opposition -- politics, religion, mental illness (?) -- you forgot to include anything about their explanations of the observed phenomena being less satisfactory.

        My first problem with this attitude is, who decides when the best response is simply treating the adherents as unworthy neanderthals and making sure that no legitimate scientific criticisms get swept in? Will that be you? I don't trust that this is always going to work out. I do, however, always trust in a dispassioned comparison of evidence, or at least, there's nothing I trust more.

        My second problem is that it much more difficult to reason with people when you start your arguments by giving them a bloody nose. At that point they're just in it to retaliate for the bloody nose, assuming they don't stop reading entirely. IMHO you are making it ten times more difficult to actually stamp out these bad thinkings just so you can have the satisfication of wielding a few insults. What does referring to anyone snidely actual accomplish in the scientific discourse?

        • by tbannist (230135) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @09:01AM (#47118361)

          I do, however, always trust in a dispassioned comparison of evidence, or at least, there's nothing I trust more.

          Unfortunately, that comparison is rarely disappassionate. In fact, some recent studies have found that the "just the facts" approach to education on controversial topics tends to backfire [skepdic.com]. Among the general populace, there a high tendency to acknowledge only the facts that support a pre-existing position and the ignore the facts that contradict it.

          Frankly, that's why there is an entire cottage industry built around denying something that 97% of the people researching it [iop.org] have concluded is true. However, that 97% may actually be low-balling the consensus, since James Powell [jamespowell.org] says he's reviewed 25,182 scientific articles in peer-reveiwed journals mentioning global warming and climate change since 1991 and only 26 of them reject the anthropogenic cause. That's would be a disagreement rate of about 0.1%.

          The people most qualified to evaluate the evidence seem to be in a near universal agreement that is rarely accurately represented [youtube.com] by the media.

          • by tp1024 (2409684) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @10:18AM (#47119005)

            Well, if you had read the paper you cited then you would have written:

            He and a bunch of other people frequenting "www.scepticalscience.com" had a look at 11944 ABSTRACTS of arcticles that explicitly deal with the topics "global warming" or "global climate change". NOTHING ELSE. To put it bluntly, even the phrase "global cooling" doesn't pass muster. If the topic was something objective like "climate modelling" without explicitly putting "global warming" or "global climate change" in the topic it didn't pass muster.

            The abstracts were evaluated among the 12 people who read them and the allowed to compare notes and re-evaluate their findings, thus building further consensus among the already biased evaluators. In the end, about 8000 of those abstracts evaluated by biased examiners chosen through a biased selection process were evaluated to contain no such statement and were hence excluded. That's 66.4%. Some 32.6% were found to agree with the global warming or global climate change hypothesis necessarily expoused as a topic. Oh the surprise.

            You can't find disagreement if you close your eyes. or pretent they don't say anything.

      • ...until the moment that science proves something that contradicts your political beliefs. Then suddenly, science is relative and biased. Just look into intelligence research or research into intersex relations.
    • by KeensMustard (655606) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @05:18AM (#47117573)

      On any other topic this name calling is derided as an ad hominen attack.

      I'm not convinced that that is true. For one thing, it pre-supposes there is debate, which would require an exchange of ideas, which requires at least two sides to present axioms they consider to be true with some foundational reasons why we should think that those ideas are true. That is not what is happening here. It is not clear, for a start, that many denialists think of their arguments as factual - merely as a position that they hold because they self identify with a group of people who hold that as a position - a political/tribal 'view' if you like. They expect a debate on this in much the way that two opposing political ideologies might debate for the sake of finding a common ground. So they will repeatedly make the same debunked claims, e.g. Ice mass in the Antarctic is increasing! because even though this statement is debunked by observation they expect to negotiate from some middle ground. Whether the statement is factual or not is irrelevant - what matters is that an opposing view is stated, regardless of how extreme, because after that, we try to compromise on a position that is mutually satisfactory. That is how the world works, right?

      Wrong.

      Reality is more powerful than ideology. Reality will always win. Doesn't matter if you reject gravity, gravity still acts. You can't negotiate for, say, acceleration due to gravity to be 4.5 m/s/s. You can't negotiate with Global Warming either. It is, and will continue to be.

      People who deny it, like people who deny gravity, or a terminal cancer diagnosis after a biopsy, are in denial. Thus the term "denialist" or "denier". It describes a mental condition. It doesn't preclude debate, as an ad hominem would. It's just coincident with tthe fact that there is no debate, just a group of people reporting on observations, and another group of people stating a position absent observation or factual grounding.

  • by GNious (953874) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @04:48AM (#47117471)

    Wasn't the increase in ice-area attributed to the melt from inland not being salty, and thus having a higher freezing-point?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Black Parrot (19622)

      It's seasonal, and one of the reasons for the increase is increased precipitation (caused by, you guessed it, global warming).
      The sea there is actually warmer, and the land ice is shrinking.
      In short, this is only interesting if you need facts with superficial interpretations that can "refute" global warming to the uninformed masses.

      http://www.skepticalscience.co... [skepticalscience.com]

      p.s. - I notice in another skepticalscience link that gw deniers have joined evolution deniers in invoking the second law of thermodynamics as "p

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by tmosley (996283)
        Replace all references to the monolithic concept of "global warming" with "an angry god", and something interesting happens.

        PHLOGISTON!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2014 @06:14AM (#47117693)

    1. Sea ice is thin and temporary and has no effect on sea level. It grows and shrinks according to SHORT TERM weather.
    2. The collapsing glacier is massive and land-based so its melting will raise sea level. It is melting because of LONG TERM climate change.
    3. The collapse of the ONCE-PERMANENT glacier is cooling the surrounding water, causing a TEMPORARY increase in surface ice.

    If you look at the diagram that they used to describe the collapse of the glaciers, you will see why. http://gph.is/1mWdkPK Warm water at the ocean floor melts the permanent glacier. As the water cools, it rises to the surface, causing it to lower the temperature of the surface water, increasing the amount of surface ice.

    In effect, the PERMANENT, LAND-BASED glacier is quickly becoming TEMPORARY, SEA-BASED ice. Even if this sea-based ice remains or even expands, it will have already raised sea-levels.

    • by apcullen (2504324)
      I was confused. I don't ever remember reading about there being LESS ice in antarctica, Parent explained it for me. Thank you.
  • Seen it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2NO@SPAMgdargaud.net> on Thursday May 29, 2014 @07:44AM (#47117955) Homepage
    As someone who's seen sea-ice breakups in Antarctica, they don't happen when the temperature warms up, but when there's a storm in certain directions, usually from the north, leading to waves breaking and carrying away the ice quickly. Emperor penguin chicks pay a heavy tribute to those every few years.
    • but when there's a storm in certain directions, usually from the north

      In Antarctica, isn't every storm from the north?

  • Nobody make a splash..
  • The summary misses an important point, while at the same time mentioning it: " Climate models haven't explained this seeming contradiction to anyone's satisfaction" The entire idea of AGW is based on climate models, yet these models have repeatedly failed to actually explain certain, specific observed phenomena. This leads people to question basing policy that will cost a large amount of money and freedom on those models. When you want to give bureaucrats authority to determine what I can and cannot do base
  • There is no contradiction here. The statement in the headline is wrong. In fact, we just recently had this discussion here on Slashdot:
    http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

    Even though the world is warming, the average area of the sea ice around Antarctica is increasing.

    True. But the volume is decreasing.

    Climate models haven't explained this seeming contradiction

    *shrug* I can't say who is or is not satisfied. But my understanding is that the melting ice is freshwater, and that during cold periods a small amount of surface freshwater can freeze again.

    This is to be expected: imagine an ice cube sitting on your countertop. As the ice melts, a small amount of free

  • What makes me nuts about the climate changers is that they seem to believe that humans have more impact than the sun and other natural events and then have built a de facto religion around it. It's another example of scientific dogma where anyone who dares to challenge them becomes something 'other' and put on worldwide notice that they should be shunned. The other thing that makes me nuts is that they use the word 'denier;' it's offensive since the subtle equation is the Holocaust and, as a result, it disc
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      What makes me nuts about the climate changers is that they seem to believe that humans have more impact than the sun and other natural events and then have built a de facto religion around it.

      We are all climate changers. What makes the people who embrace science frustrated about the denialists is that they either continually mischaracterize the debate in order to seem to have a valid argument, or they are too stupid to comprehend simple sentences. The argument is not that humans have more impact than the sun, and anyone who claims that is a liar or a moron. Which are you? The argument is that human output is throwing a system in a condition of nominal stasis out of balance in a way that is incon

      • "nominal statis" - what is nominal and what is static [ianschumacher.com]? The reality is that climate change is the norm; a static climate is abnormal.

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