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Rhetoric melts ice sheets

12 Feb 2020 | OP ED Watch

A site called “Severe Weather Europe” tells us “An incredible temperature high of 18.3°C (65°F) has been measured in Antarctica! This is possibly the highest temperature on the continent since the last interglacial period!” As if anyone has daily temperature records for Antarctica for the past 10,000 years. And the new record turns out only to be 0.8 °C above the previous record and was measured on an exposed tip of the Antarctic Peninsula prone to (relatively) warm southerly winds. Jim Steele, in a scorching post liable to cause local temperature anomalies, denounces “misleading articles” by “media giants… intent on scaring the public and manufacturing a false climate crisis” not least because they don’t mention that Antarctica has been cooling since 2000, whatever warm wind might hit the “single weather station” on exposed, atypical Esperanza. Similarly David Middleton says there’s a nothing snowcone in Greenland’s Ice Mass Loss.

As Middleton notes, it stands to reason that the “Greenland Ice Sheet” has lost some of its ice since the Little Ice Age, “quite likely the coldest climatic episode of the Holocene Epoch”. But then he offers “The Insignificance of Greenland’s Ice Mass Loss in Five Easy Charts”.

Middleton thinks the Greenland Ice Sheet or, to save keystrokes, “GrIS” might actually have “gained ice mass during the mid-20th century global cooling crisis” up until 1980. Thereafter, we’re told, the surface was melting, icebergs were calving off and Greenland was trying to earn its name. But, he says, there’s not even much sign of more iceberg creation now than between 1900 and 1950. Which people do measure because as Leonardo DiCaprio fans know well, icebergs have a nasty habit of sinking ships.

The methodology has not been consistent, of course, going from people looking over the railing of a sailing ship to high-tech radar. But on the whole it seems the southbound iceberg traffic increased in the 1990s then went back to early 20th-century numbers. Ah, but “Maybe the ‘unprecedented’ Arctic warming is melting the icebergs before they can get south of 48° N.” Alas, Greenland ice cores don’t show sufficient warming to have such an effect. Indeed they hardly show any.

As for satellite measurements of the GrIS, well, compared to the entire Holocene since the last retreat of the glaciers, the melting is “Same as it ever was”. So what about that catastrophic 7-metre revenge-of-nature sea level rise we’ve been promised?

Perhaps it’s coming. But don’t start building a dock in Wisconsin yet. Or an Ark. As Middleton observes, estimates of the total volume of the GrIS “vary widely” and yet modern climate ‘scientists’ claim they can detect 0.015% annual changes in this uncertain number. And his worst-plausible-case scenarios of dramatic ice loss at the most melt-prone edges give us a sad little 4.8 millimetre increase and a barely more noticeable 2 inches, not even worth skipping school for.

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