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Splash thud

23 Sep 2020 | News Roundup

It’s all over. We passed another tipping point. A piece of ice fell off Greenland. “Dismay as huge chunk of Greenland’s ice cap breaks off/ The ice shelf has lost 160 square miles, an area nearly twice that of Manhattan in New York, since 1999, as climate change takes a toll”, moans NBC. Oh really? So glaciers never used to calf from Greenland? Well yes, and they still do, because glaciers and icebergs calve from growing ice sheets and the ice in question is expanding.

Actually this panic is embarrassingly bad. For as Electroverse points out, well, several things. Including that Greenland has not been losing but gaining ice mass lately. Now we should observe here that while we are no strangers to sarcasm, we find the tone of the Electroverse post unconstructive. But the argument is worth wading through the prickly rhetorical to pursue. Namely that while 42 square miles of ice, the size of the recent chunk, would be a lot in your backyard or your highball, it’s just peanuts to Greenland, which has 660,200 square miles of ice “meaning the section that broke off amounts to just 0.0064% of the sheet’s total.” If you went on a diet and lost 0.0064% of your body weight, you would not be justified in going out for dinner to celebrate. Electroverse goes on to say that the whole 160 square miles that the Daily Caller described as being “twice the size of Manhattan” as though urban New York was every cool person’s frame of reference, is “just 0.024% of the ice sheet”. Pretty bad, huh?

No. It turns out that was just the throat-clearing. The real point of Electroverse’s refutation is that “Calving is a form of ice ablation or ice disruption, and is caused by a glacier EXPANDING, not melting. Kelly Brunt, a glaciologist with NASA and the University of Maryland, explains: ‘the process of formation was a bit like a fingernail growing too long and cracking off at the end.’” Which deprives it of some of its majesty, we suppose. But also of its terror.

Is Electroverse just whistling past the icy marine graveyard? Not at all. They provide a time-lapse image of the Spalte glacier from which this massively tiny chunk cracked off, and don’t go prearranging the funeral yet because sure enough, it’s growing.

So we are all going to die, but only if you get in the way of the expanding Greenland ice and a glacier runs over you or a big chunk falls off onto your head.

2 comments on “Splash thud”

  1. Whenever you see a comment in MSM such as "twice the size of Manhattan" or "as big as Puerto Rico"(re fires in Brazil) it's always useful to check the area of the country concerned and do simple arithmetic.
    For example, 160 square miles is 0.019% of the area of Greenland (836,300 sq mi), which is such a small percentage it is probably easily within the range of error of measurement.

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