The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is the big one that people worry about because, as we explain in our video on the sea level scare, if it melts and the ice slides into the ocean the sea level will rise enough to flood the oceanfront mansions of all those millionaire climate activists. And yes, a recent study by a team of scientists led by Ryan Venturelli of the Colorado School of Mines has confirmed that such melting can occur, and can even happen rapidly once it starts. But how did they find out? By going 150 km inland and drilling through a kilometer of ice and finding, of all things, a lake. The really big surprise isn’t that you could have a lake down there, since scientists already knew there were about 650 of them under the Antarctic ice. It’s that their study showed the WAIS had melted back that far 6,000 years ago, during the mid-Holocene climate optimum. Yes, one of those natural warm episodes in the past that the IPCC keeps trying to erase but which scientists keep finding evidence for in the darndest places.
The article publicizing the new finding starts with the usual ritual hype about rapid melting of the Antarctic ice cap, tipping points, etc. etc., conveniently ignoring the longstanding lack of Antarctic sea ice loss. But then it gets to the remarkable details uncovered by the scientific team.
They used a hot water drill and melted a hole a kilometer down through the current ice cap so they could draw samples of water, sediment and microorganisms from the buried lake. They found the carbon in the sediments was about 6,000 years old, meaning the water was exposed to air and sea water back then. What’s more they found clues that the edge of the ice cap may have been a hundred km even farther inland. So after the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago Antarctica warmed way up and a lot of ice melted away. So much melted, in fact, that the edge of the ice cap retreated as much as 250 km inland from the coast.
Wow. Talk about unprecedented. But also talk about the fact that there was no tipping point or runaway global warming with this massive, rapid warming. Instead the climate cycled and started cooling again, the ice began reforming and then grew back to its present location.
The study authors offer the observation that while we’re currently trying to figure out how the Antarctic ice sheet behaves based on only a few decades’ worth of measurements, we need thousands of years worth of data to understand the natural dynamics at work. Now we have it, and it tells us once again that the climate is a complicated dynamic thing capable of doing a lot of changing all on its own, including warming in ways that dramatically exceed what’s happening now.