Global warming means polar ice caps melting which means sea levels rising which means ... well let's back up a step. Are the polar ice caps melting? The Arctic (except Greenland) doesn't matter for sea levels because the ice is floating. It's the Antarctic that really matters because so much ice is on land that if it melts it will raise sea levels. If. A new historical reconstruction of the vast West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) has turned up a puzzle: the ice was retreating during the cold years of the 19th century but from 1900 to 2010, during the supposed global warming crisis, it has been growing at a statistically significant rate. Something to keep in mind if an alarmist is trying to sell you beachfront property at the south pole.
The new study is not just interesting because it finds trends in the surface mass balance of Antarctic ice that run counter to boilerplate alarmist rhetoric, not to mention climate model projections. It’s also interesting because it finds that the trends in the ice on the little Antarctic peninsula run counter to those on the western mainland. Almost as if climate were complex.
The Antarctic peninsula is the relatively tiny stretch of land that juts up towards Argentina. Since the eco-tourist crowd usually only get as far as the tip of the peninsula, then race home to report that they saw some ice falling off a cliff, it's a useful reminder that what happens there is not a good indicator of what is happening on the rest of the continent. (And NB in addition to the WAIS there’s an even bigger East Antarctic Ice Sheet that seems insolently to have been gaining mass lately even though models told it to melt and drown us all.)
The authors of the new study also looked at how and whether the behaviour of the WAIS correlates with large scale warming and cooling patterns in the global climate system, such as the El Nino cycle. They find that any correlations are "temporally unstable" (which seems to be how academics say “not really there”): such correlations come and go over time, and the major climate oscillations contribute little to variations in the ice sheet mass balance.
The modern creed on climate change, against which we proudly declare our heretical stance, says that says the science of climate change is simple, the mechanisms are all well-understood, the effects are all bad and the "solutions" are easy and painless. We tackled the simple physics myth in a recent video. The discovery that Antarctic ice is a complex system unto itself that doesn't merely follow the beat of the rest of the global climate system or obey the dictates of climate models is a small part of tackling the second tenet of the creed.