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Peter Hadfield on Himalayan glacier melt

Posted on 13 February 2012 by Rob Honeycutt

Journalist Peter Hadfield has produced a new Youtube video regarding all the headlines that were splashed across the news circuits last week claiming that there's been "No Melt in 10 Years."  

Peter's MO has become the simple act of "reading the actual research."  In this video he applies this unique journalistic technique to Jacob et. al 2012, "Recent contributions of glaciers and ice caps to sea level rise" and gets us to the bottom of what the rest of the media manages to miss.

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Comments 1 to 31:

  1. Lovely!
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  2. "What on Earth could be causing that...?"
    What, pray tell, indeed?
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  3. Great post from the Daily Telegraph on this subject.

    As the author, Tom Chivers, says, this is proof that 'AGW' is not some huge global scientific conspiracy. The research that the those in denial are crowing about was undertaken and published by a group of regular climate scientists without any axes to grind. If anyone is ever going to show that 'AGW is wrong', it won't be fake sceptic bloggers -- it'll be the climate scientists that they despise.
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  4. Full marks to Hadfield and thanks to John Russell for that great commentary from Tom Chivers.

    In The Telegraph!

    What truly disturbs me is that The Guardian performed as badly in this as they did over the CRU hack / 'Climategate' (where they were very bad indeed! And learned nothing, it seems.)

    As I noted on the other thread discussing this they even managed to turn this global satellite research into 'the Himalayan Glacier Study' and somehow ignore their own reporting of the manifestly evident lower-altitude glacier melt! And then run a sort of agony column about whether we should still believe in Global Warming and Glacier melt after this...

    Really, The Australian could scarcely have spun the tale more to the anti-science brigade's benefit!

    And I completely agree - if AGW were to ever be 'disproved' (or, more likely - but unlikely nonetheless - sensitivity was to be revised significantly downwards) it'll be real science that produces the research, not the fake-skeptics who only specialise in muddying the waters!
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  5. It wan good to read the article, but depressing when I started going through the comments.
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  6. jimb- I also went to the article and read the comments. I still can't help myself; I get reactive when I read the litany of breathtaking ignorance, will self-deception and outright lying that inevitably follow any and every article on climate change. Skeptical Science is an incredible site and resource- but, does there come a time, when patience and the didactic approach becomes a futile proposition...do not some of these folks need a bit more scorn or, at least, Stephen Colbert like satire directed towards them? How do you handle it?
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  7. Tom Chivers in the Telegraph is under siege by a swarming from the pro-pollutionists. They appear to be congregating at Bishop Hill's blog ...

    Not sure about Hadfield's shrinkage as a 10% reduction (3:55 mark); the Nature paper states:

    "The GIC rate for 2003–2010 is about 30 per cent smaller than the previous mass balance estimate that most closely matches our study period"

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature10847.html

    The news that the overall mass may be less volatile over a short-term really isn't big news at all - it's a repeat of mass redistributions noted for Greenland (elevation-driven), and Antarctica (east buildup, west loss).

    The real news may be the problem the study was built for - closing the budget on sea-level rise. CSIRO's claim of 'closed' takes a hit -

    http://www.csiro.au/Portals/Media/Auditing-the-Earths-sea-level-and-energy-budgets.aspx

    and papers that support the 'missing GSL-rise components' gain leverage:

    www.igsoc.org/annals/v52/59/a59a019.pdf

    (Moore et.al. "The Historical Global Sea Level Budget", Annals of Glaciology, 2011)

    The itch that needs scratching is the sacred-cow acceptance of GRACE data revisions. UAH data has been reassessed multiple times. It's only a matter of time before someone refers to GRACE as the satellite that cried 'Wolf'.
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  8. owl905,

    Or didn't cry Wolf!
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  9. dagold@6
    I don't deal with it very well either.
    I was just finishing "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars" by Dr. Mann, and couldn't help but compare the tone of his book to the tone of most of the adverse comments following this article (and everywhere else following many mainstream press articles on climate change). Surprisingly, Dr. Mann seems to hold out some hope that the contrarians may have passed their peak of influence- one can only hope he is correct.
    It is always telling to see what portions of the research papers are highlighted and what portions are either ignored or left to the end of the analysis.
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  10. How much energy is needed to melt 4.3 trillion tonnes of ice?
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  11. @owl905,
    at the 2:56 mark, Peter Hadfield comments upon the 30% figure.

    Glaciers and ice caps = 148 Billion tonnes (63Gt less)
    (excluding Antartica and Greenland)

    Peripheral glaciers and ice caps = 81 Gt
    (in Greenland and antartica)

    Ice sheets = 303Gt
    (in Greenland and antartica)

    Total = 532Gt



    The 30% figure is calculated from the loss from the glaciers and ice caps (excluding Antartica and Greenland).
    This figure is 63Gt less than previously estimated. previous estimate is: 148Gt +63Gt = 211Gt
    Therefore the 30% loss = (63Gt/211Gt)x100

    The 10% figure is from derived from the total ice loss.
    Previous total estimate is: 532Gt + 63Gt= 595Gt
    therefore the 10% loss = (63Gt/595Gt)x100
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  12. Great summary by the way! Very clear and informative.

    I thought the silver lining comment at the end was pretty hilarious!
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  13. Sapient Fridge, it takes 333 Joules to melt 1g of ice and IIRC there are 10^6 grams per tonne so a little over 10^21 Joules.

    From the energy chart http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders_of_magnitude_%28energy%29, that's about an order of magnitude less than the daily incident solar energy.
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  14. Sapient @10

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enthalpy_of_fusion

    Transforming 1kg of ice to water = 333.55kJ
    Therefore 1 tonne of ice needs 333.55MJ or 3.3355x10^8 J
    4.3 trillion tonnes needs 4.3x10^12 x 3.335x10^8 J
    = 1.43405x10^21 J (1,434,050,000,000,000,000,000 J)

    Context: It would take a 1GW power station 45,439 years just to melt this much ice!
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  15. I did not read the previous post on this, so I apologize if this rather obvious bit has already been pointed out.

    GRACE does not measure the changing mass of the ice sheets and glaciers. It measures small changes in the distance between two satellites in orbit, one chasing after the other. And, from that, determines what the mass must be to create the gravitational force to cause that change in distance... But, but, that means... that the change in mass of the ice sheets is being inferred by... gasp!... a model!!!

    'Course, this didn't cause any hesitation by the "it's only models!" skeptics from leaping to support the parts of the recent GRACE results that they found reassuring...
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  16. @Dr Joju - thanks for explaining the different percentage references.
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  17. andylee... "Context: It would take a 1GW power station 45,439 years just to melt this much ice! "

    That's a fantastic way to state it.
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  18. It's also worth remembering that it takes 80 times more energy to melt a block of ice at 0 degrees C into water at the same temperature, as it does to raise the temperature of the same amount of water by each subsequent degree C. This phenomenon is called the 'enthalpy of fusion'.

    It means there is an inherent 'inertia' in temperature when a large amount of ice is present in an area. Air temperatures will then tend to rise much faster in an area once the ice has gone, as it requires less energy to warm it up.
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  19. Tad Pfeffer, one of this paper's co-authors, was recorded on video as he gave the Nye Lecture at this year's AGU. He noted that the status of glaciology as a science has changed somewhat since 1960, when its definition was included in "Mrs. Byrnes Dictionary of unusual, obscure and preposterous words". "We're in the spotlight now"

    He talked about the strengths, weaknesses, and limits of glaciology. The importance of sea level rise to civilization makes glaciology an "applied science", as opposed to the more purely intellectual endeavor it once was, he said. He called attention to the great efforts scientists in his field are making to provide global data and analysis at this crucial time:

    "Up until recently our inventory, our knowledge of where the glaciers are in the world and how big they are - this isn't just a matter of the total area or volume of ice in the world, but what's the area and elevation of distribution - we only knew that for about 48% of the glaciers in the world and even that was brought up from about 40% - 48% ... in 2009. This increase from 48% to nearly 100% has been accomplished by this group of about 40 contributors... in one year in anticipation of AR5 and I think its a magnificent accomplishment"

    One thing I found when comparing the chart of data from the Jacobs et.al. study that was published in the Guardian (I haven't been able to get the actual paper yet) to Hansen's estimates for what is going on published in his Earth's Energy Imbalance and Implications paper, i.e. his Figure 14, was that Hansen's mean value for the total contribution from Antarctica and Greenland to sea level rise was 0.85 mm/yr, whereas what Jacob et.al. found was 1.06 mm/yr.

    I.e., Jacob et.al. find that in the regions where most of the remaining ice on the planet is, ice mass loss is greater than what Hansen recently thought.
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  20. Very informative video on the significance of what the study implies regarding sea level contribution and contributions from different melt sources – thanks. If I can, I’d appreciate any input from people on something I’m not clear on. I’m enquiring because I anticipate that a – cough- “skeptical” friend of mine, a very nice person, but who seems to be unaware of the difference between science and a headline in the Telegraph, might bring this up soon.
    Question: In hindsight it does not seem surprising to me that the ratio of shrinking to growing glaciers documented for observable/ measurable glaciers that are comparatively accessible to researchers would not match what this study found using GRACE data for higher elevation glaciers in the Himalayan Range. In short, I’m wondering if anyone can say whether or not the “answer” that is derived from the GRACE data could have, should have, or may was expected simply based on temperatures in the high Himalayas. Or are there gaps in temperature coverage for the Himalayan range that might have made such a seemingly logical expectation (i.e. the % of glacier shrinkage at comparatively lower altitude is greater than at very high elev.) less straightforward than what it seems to the layman like me? Hope that made some sense and sorry for the basic-ness of the question.
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  21. Ice doesn't have to melt to contribute to sea level rise

    Eg: Williams et.al.: Evidence for iceberg armadas from East Antarctica...
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  22. Nice comment by John Russell (I'm paraphrasing) on how the air stays the same temperature in the vicinity of ice as latent heat keeps the whole system at or around 0 degrees C. Once the ice is gone, the incoming heat can warm the air. How much truer in the case of the Arctic ocean. As long as the ice is there in large quantities, the Arctic ocean will stay around 0. When it is gone we should see some real temperature rises. Watch the clathrates break down then.
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  23. andylee - On the other hand...

    At a TOA imbalance of 0.9 W/m^2, with an Earth surface are of of 5.1x10^14 m^2, the imbalance adds up to 459 TW (not GW)!

    Or sufficient energy to melt that ice in 1/10th of a year.
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  24. Rob @17, thanks - I'd like to think that most people can quantify an average 1GW power station, however nebulously.
    1 million 1kW heaters is a lot of power!

    The UK has 75 GW of generating capacity, about 1kW per person.

    Humanity uses and wastes orders of magnitude more energy than it should need.
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  25. @KR, I presume +0.9 W/m² is average insolation, but there must be a reason that it has taken 8 years and not 1.2 months to melt this amount of ice.
    This is a difference of 80x, so how to account for it?

    If this imbalance continues, then it has the capability to eventually melt most ice - if the ice goes, there'll be nothing holding back thermal runaway until the Earth reaches thermodynamic equilibrium again and reradiates as much as it receives.
    I don't see oceans boiling, but the increase of a few degress would definitely be a Bad Thing.
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  26. andylee - That presumes all the energy imbalance goes directly into the ice. But only ~2.1% goes into the cryosphere.



    80 * 0.021 = 1.68x (within a factor of 2 for back of the envelope), and given that recent years may have a radiative imbalance (not insolation) closer to 0.65 W/m^2, around 1.2x, so again fairly close for my rough numbers...
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  27. Thanks KR, that makes sense... but that ocean heat has to come out again somewhere as it is eventually distributed around the entire ocean through the various conveyor belts, nibbling (or munching) on ice shelves and glacier faces.
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  28. John Russell @ 3 et al
    Some of the comments to the Chivers article are priceless:
    I think its rubbish, and if it isn't, the cure is worse than the disease, I don't want to revert to the Stone Age.
    If you want to know the truth about Arctic ice - check the blogs, don(t ask "the scientists"
    If you, Tony, had been doing your job, you would have noticed a number of references to scientific work in the blogs, torpedoing the rising seas claims, papers and discussion about whether CO2 produces a positive feedback (the basis of the AGW scam) or negative feedback. The "consensus" is it is negative.
    It's a regular 50-70 year cycle caused by the accumulation of iron in the ice.
    We are putting more CO2 into the atmosphere, and the temperature is now gradually declining.
    CO2 expands much more than air.

    I inhabit SkS-space, because at least the comments appear to be rational. I struggle to understand the science, but at least I really do try. It is depressing how many people deny the science because they don't like what it says. Accumulation of iron in the ice? Riiiiight.
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  29. Doug @ 28 Humanity is doomed. :(



    Can we have a new planet with intelligent life on it please?
    This one is broken.
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  30. andylee @ 29 Thanks for the explanation. I wondered how the ratio became so skewed. Is that a Tea caddy he is shaking, perchance?
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  31. I hate to be pedantic, but the latent heat of fusion of ice only describes the energy required to melt it when it reaches 0 degrees celcius. A large proportion of polar ice is unlikely to be sitting at exactly 0°C, so additional energy is required to raise it from its ambient temperature to 0°C.

    The specific heat capacity of ice at −10°C is approximately 2.05 J/(g·K). Thus, to raise a gram of ice from an average ambient temperature of −10°C to 0°C would require 20.5 joules which is, admittedly, about 1/16th that of the heat of fusion.

    Following Andylee's format at #14:

    Raising the temperature of 1kg of ice from −10°C to 0°C would require 20.5 kilojoules.

    Raising the temperature of 1 tonne of ice from −10°C to 0°C would require 20.5 megajoules.

    Raising the temperature of 4.3 trillion tonnes of ice from −10°C to 0°C would require 4.3 x 1012 x 20.5 megajoules, or approximately 8.82 x 1019 joules.

    And that's assuming that the average temperature of the ice is −10°C. It's likely colder, so the amount of energy required would be commensurately greater.
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