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The West Antarctic: Melting its way into a lot more ice

30 Oct 2019 | Science Notes

Via Pat Michaels of the Competitive Enterprise Institute we learn of a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical-Research that provides a 200-year long reconstruction of the mass of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), i.e. the big frozen beast everyone says is going to melt away under global warming and flood our coastlines. The authors found that the WAIS was indeed losing ice – way back in the 1800s when it was colder. From 1900 to 2010 as the world warmed the WAIS turned around and began getting larger, as in growing, at about twice the rate it had been shrinking a hundred years ago. Is that possible? Is it allowed?

The authors assembled 38 ice cores from around the Antarctic and were able to build a bigger data set than previous researchers had. To their surprise they found that in the relatively cold periods of the early 1800s, rather than the WAIS expanding it began to lose mass at the rate of about 2 gigatonnes per year. But as of the start of the 20th century and continuing through to 2010, it began to grow at the rate of over 5 gigatonnes per year. In the past people had argued that the WAIS leveled off after 1950, but the new data set shows the growth continued.

CEI blogger Pat Michaels says this new finding backs up another similar paper from 2015 that showed snowfall was increasing over the eastern part of the WAIS, and this was leading to a larger ice mass. It doesn't contradict the idea that the oceans have warmed slightly, Michaels says, instead the two are consistent. A slightly warmer ocean puts a little extra moisture into the air, and over the South Pole this falls as snow, which helps build the ice pack. Instead of warming causing the Antarctic ice pack to shrivel up, it's making it grow. The opposite of a climate scare story.

Which is why you read it here, not in the Globe and Mail.

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