Greenland, that wretched mass of ice, keeps drowning us all. When will it stop? Not any time soon, apparently, as the glacier cap is melting faster than the settled science predicted, as usual, and is “now irreversibly committed to at least 10 inches of sea level rise”. By next year? The year after? Er, not quite. What the actual study says is that “Greenland ice sheet response times are up to approximately 2,500 years, transient models indicate that the magnitude of response to the present day committed ice loss could occur within approximately 200 years.” So you’re trying to scare us with less than a foot of sea level rise somewhere between 2322 and 4822 because a computer model said it was bound to happen unless it didn’t? Alas, it is so. Or not, since back in the real world Arctic sea ice is at a 10-year high, almost as though there were natural cyclical forces at play.
The press nevertheless went “Raaaahr” on cue. CTV contributed a characteristic story “‘Zombie ice’ from Greenland will raise sea level 27 centimetres”. Zombie ice! We are all going to die and then be undead! By being turned into a brain slushie or something. (ABC couldn’t resist that clickbait either.) And yes, the settled science is unsettled except scientists always say it’s worse than scientists say: “Greenland’s rapidly melting ice sheet will eventually raise global sea level by at least 27 centimetres (10.6 inches) – more than twice as much as previously forecast – according to a study published Monday.” And it quoted a study co-author from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland that it’s because of “dead ice. It’s just going to melt and disappear from the ice sheet. This ice has been consigned to the ocean, regardless of what climate (emissions) scenario we take now.”
In describing their study on The Conversation, another co-author Alun Hubbard of the University of Tromsø does the there-is-no-natural-climate-variability dance, “For the past 6,000 years Greenland, like the rest of the planet, has benefited from a mild and stable climate with an ice sheet in equilibrium – until recently.” But (cue ominous music) since 1990, the date at which the effects of climate change kicked in being one of the most unsettled features of the settled science, “Greenland’s mass balance has gone into the red. Ice losses due to enhanced melt, rain, ice flow and calving now far exceed the net gain from snow accumulation.”
How bad is it? Well, we’re this doomed: “Greenland’s ice sheet… is irreversibly committed to retreat by at least 59,000 square kilometers (22,780 square miles), an area considerably larger than Denmark, Greenland’s protectorate state.”
See the models are getting better and better every day in every way without ever getting good:
“Remarkable advances in ice flow modelling have been achieved in recent years, for example, incorporating higher-order ice rheology, improved treatment of tidewater dynamics and calving, subglacial drainage, deforming beds, basal heat dissipation and grid-resolution dependence. However, for application to Greenland, these have not yet been fully integrated with sufficiently realistic atmosphere/land/ocean forcing data nor with sufficient treatment of amplifying processes to yield a sensitive sub-centennial response to intensifying climate change.”
So they couldn’t predict their way out of a wet peat bog. Except about things bound to happen at some unspecified point.
The study itself admits that in 2018 Greenland was chilly even by its standards and the ice was “temporarily in a state of mass budget equilibrium”. But of course it’s of no importance. Just temporary. Because, theory trumping data:
“The respectively high and low-melt years of 2012 and 2018 are useful to represent future extremes that are becoming the hallmark of Arctic amplified climate change. Indeed, Greenland climate variability is observed to be increasing, yet it is not well captured by global climate models.”
So the models don’t explain, but they do predict. Glad we got that one settled.
One skeptic in tweeting the CTV story noted that the world’s oceans have a total surface area of 360 million square kilometers, which is roughly correct. And he then asked how much ice there is in Greenland. It’s a fair question, since to raise 360 million square kilometers by 27 cm, roughly one-quarter of a metre, would seem to require 90 million cubic meters of water. But the answer is that the Greenland ice cap is estimated to contain just under 3 million cubic kilometers or 3 billion cubic meters, so yes, in principle it could raise the oceans as much as 7 meters. And if just one 28th of it melted, a quarter of a meter. (Since people do occasionally ask, it hardly matters whether floating ice melts. But land-based ice is another story, and there’s enough in Antarctica, an estimated roughly 26.5 million cubic kilometers, to raise sea levels 60 meters.) The question is, will it?
No. Of course not. It didn’t in the Medieval Warm Period, whose existence alarmists often deny. And it didn’t in the Roman Warm Period they haven’t yet polished off in the forum although that 6,000 years of equilibrium does qualify for “Kai sup aides?” (aka “Et tu Brute?”). So it won’t now. If a bit of it melts in the next two centuries, well, if we don’t polish ourselves off some other way, we’ll cope. But in any case, knowing as we do that Arctic ice has been cyclical even in the 20th century, including rising from the 1940s into the late 1970s then retreating, the odds are quite good that it won’t even do that.