Chasing Ice!

by Judith Curry

Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet.

Chasing Ice is a documentary that was screened at the White House for Earth Day in 2013.  The film has won numerous awards:

Chasing Ice is the recipient of the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation’s 2013 Outstanding Achievement Award, and has won over 30 awards at film festivals around the world, including: SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL – Excellence in Cinematography Award: US Documentary The Environmental Media Association’s 22nd Annual BEST DOCUMENTARY AWARD.


In the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.

Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.

As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Balog finds himself at the end of his tether. Battling untested technology in subzero conditions, he comes face to face with his own mortality. It takes years for Balog to see the fruits of his labor. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet.

The movie has stunning videography of the greenland ice sheet (check out the trailer), and includes  includes scenes from a glacier calving event, lasting 75 minutes, the longest such event ever captured on film.  James Balog’s story and quest is truly amazing, and he is an interesting and likable character.  I was much less impressed by the obligatory ‘alarmism’ from some scientists, including Terry Root claiming that we will see a mass extinction event within 300 years, damaging hurricanes and attribution to AGW of the increase in global economic losses from extreme weather (something even the IPCC SREX has disavowed).

Last night, the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech hosted a screening of the documentary.  The event was convened by Kim Cobb, who organized a panel of scientists to answer questions after the film.  About 100 people attended the event, most of whom were from the nearby community (maybe 20% Georgia Tech folks).  We had the full spectrum in the audience, ranging from a group from the Climate Coalition to someone affiliated with the Heartland Institute.  I think the event was very rewarding for everyone involved; the Q&A lasted for 90 minutes and about a dozen people remained another 30 minutes for discussion.

The second question from the audience Q&A is the main focus for this post, it was something like this:

How much did that iceberg contribute to global sea level rise, and to what extent did that influence the storm surge and subsequent damage from Hurricane Sandy?

The story line of the film is something like this.  A lot of people are skeptical about global warming, even Balog was skeptical.  But Balog became convinced of CAGW by what was going on with NH glaciers, which he documents.  His team’s capture of the calving event was a vindication.  All this was then followed by the testimony of climate scientists about concerns/dangers of AGW.  Hence, the audience was left with the impression that the iceberg filmed by Balog was somehow an exceptional event, and that the calving iceberg reflected dangerous climate change.

I provided this context for the question. As per the Wikipedia, calving of Greenland’s glaciers produce 12,000 to 15,000 icebergs each year alone.  As for the issue of whether Balog’s iceberg was anything special, it was estimated that the iceberg had a volume of 7.4 cubic km.   Compare this with with the Aug 2010 iceberg from the Peterman Glacier in northwest Greenland, that was estimated to be 260 square km.

Greenland mass balance

And what of the overall mass balance of the Greenland glaciers?  Here is what the IPCC AR5 has to say:

The average rate of ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet has very likely substantially increased from 34 [–6 to 74] Gt yr–1 over the period 1992–2001 to 215 [157 to 274] Gt yr–1 over the period 2002–2011.

A  paper that I find particularly illuminating on this topic is Timing and origin of recent regional ice loss in Greenland, by Sasgen et al.   Excerpt:

Within the last decade,the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) and its surroundings have experienced record high surface temperatures, ice sheet melt extent and record-low summer sea-ice extent. Using three independent datasets,we derive, for the first time, consistent ice-mass trends and temporal variations within seven major drainage basins from gravity fields from GRACE, InSAR together with output of the regional atmospheric climate modelling, and surface-elevation changes from the ICESat. We show that changing ice discharge (D), surface melting and subsequent run-off (M/R) and precipitation (P) all contribute, in a complex and regionally variable  interplay, to the increasingly negative mass balance of the GrIS observed within the last decade. Interannual variability in P along the northwest and west coasts of the GrIS largely explains the apparent regional mass loss increase during 2002–2010,and obscures increasing M/R and D since the 1990s. In winter 2002/2003 and 2008/2009, accumulation anomalies in the east andsoutheast temporarily outweighed the losses by M/R and D that prevailed during 2003–2008, and after summer 2010.

Ok, so what about prior to 2002?

For all regions and the GrIS as a whole, the trends imposed by anomalies in M/R and D after 9-yr (2002–2011) significantly exceed decadal variability of trends in P for 1958–2010, meaning that GRACE and ICESat record long-term changes of the GrIS. For the west and northwest (basins F and G, respectively), the joint acceleration of M/R and D, significantly exceed the interannual variability in P, suggesting that, despite a strong contribution of P, 9-yr of GRACE data contain a long-term climate signal of mass loss acceleration in these regions.

Suggestive.  But what about prior to 1958?  Interesting paper by Csatho et al. titled Intermittent thinning of Jakoshavn Isbrae West Greenland since the Little Ice Age.  From abstract:

Rapid thinning and velocity increase on major Greenland outlet glaciers during the last two decades may indicate that these glaciers became unstable, with terminus retreat leading to increased discharge from the interior and consequent further thinning and retreat. To assess whether recent trends deviate from longer-term behavior, we measured glacier surface elevations and terminus positions for Jakobshavn Isbræ, West Greenland, using historical photographs acquired in 1944, 1953, 1959, 1964 and 1985. These results were combined with data from historical records, aerial photographs, ground surveys, airborne laser altimetry and field mapping of lateral moraines and trimlines, to reconstruct the history of changes since the Little Ice Age (LIA). We identified three periods of rapid thinning since the LIA: 1902–13, 1930–59 and 1999–present.

And to what do we attribute the recent decline in Greenland ice mass?  Some glaciologists are quick to attribute this AGW (e.g. Jason Box).  Others stay away from the AGW issue (link):  “It is hard to say. There are just so many factors that could play a role.”

JC conclusions

I have argued that the argument put forward by Balog in Chasing Ice is misleading, leading the audience to infer dangerous anthropogenic climate change from this iceberg calving event.  If we judge this by the standards of ethical framing of the climate debate, I would say that this movie falls pretty short.  Was it good theater?  Definitely yes.  Will it grab people and make them worry about AGW, will it change the tide of history?  I doubt it; the Greenland glaciers are just too remote (I think people had a more visceral reaction to Hurricane Katrina).  The good news (for everybody) is that Balog is much more likable than Al Gore in Inconvenient Truth.

287 responses to “Chasing Ice!

  1. What I would find compelling is how does the recent loss compare to that for the last few thousand years. Also, this centers on symptoms of the warming and not the cause.

    • We all must ask, has America been ambushed by academia? They killed the scientific method and with its death we must question everything as we all stray through an infinite nothing. Now more than ever, skeptics can never take a holiday again! Has global warming corruption reached a tipping point?

    • dennis adams – …how does the recent loss compare to that for the last few thousand years.

      See History of Sea Ice in the Arctic.

      • …and yet, if Polyak, et al. put together an expedition today to look for the NW passage, their foolhardy hides would have to be rescued, which is a luxury Sir John Franklin did not have.

    • You don’t need to go back thousands of years. Glaciers do this all the time. eg:
      “On her second visit to Glacier National Park in 1894, Mary Vaux (pronounced “vox”) was aghast at how the Illecillewaet Glacier had retreated since her previous visit seven years earlier.“

      • I was recently in glacier national park and from the initial mapping in the 1700’s by Cooke until the early 1900’s the retreat is measured in 10’s of miles, since the early 1900’s not too much, some are even increasing.

    • Walter Carlson

      I would refer you to the book ‘The White Planet for an answer. In the book Jouzel, Lorius, and :-)? Describe Greenland climate for thousands of years based on ice cores. Their work supports Balog’s conclusions. But sssh, don’t tell Judith.

  2. I kind of like the idea of the “Argument Pub”. ;-) Hash things out with someone you disagree with in a civil manner over a brew or a whiskey (over which all the world’s problems have been discussed and presumably solved). Or it could just be a typo of ‘pub” for the intended “put”. Pity, that. ;-)

    • I think it is where the Australian and American Chemical Society of IPA Brewers and Swillers gather to lend their support to the UN in its mission to save the world from the West.

      • Not all of us ACS members, Wag. Sure, we’ll drink with most anyone, but many of us would be happy without a UN.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      The pubs got no beer – it is a travesty to be addressed toot sweet.

      • The skeptic drops in and observes with a sneer,
        It’s dry and it’s dusty, and cold out, I fear.
        The modeler huddled by the stove in the rear
        Projections in shambles at his feet appear.
        There’s nothing so sad, so sorry or seer,
        As to stand at the bar of a pub with iced beer.

      • I thought that was Jim Hansen for a minute there.

  3. It’s useful to remember that the Greenland ice sits in a bowl.

    • I think Greenland is like mammals:
      Linked from:

      Elephant pisses more due to gravity.

    • With cracks in the bowl that are below sea level, that’s whats good to remember. Cause it is not going to tun into a huge lake above sea level when it melts.

      Greenland is three really big islands under all that ice. Not a bowl.

      • Don’t forget isostatic rebound. Much that is currently below sea level would soon rise above it were the ice to melt.

      • Remember how long that takes and it’s still rebounding from the last ice age.

      • bob droege

        Melted ice (water) will leak through those hypothetical “cracks” in the bowl.

        But it has to melt before it can do that.

        Solid ice cannot “collapse” through those cracks.

        And melting the Greenland ice cap will take millennia.

        So don’t worry, Bob. You’re not going to drown from the SL rise caused by the “collapse” of the Greenland ice sheet.

        It’s just another imaginary hobgoblin.

        So you can pull your blanket over your head and go back to sleep like a good boy.


      • Easy for you to say up there in what will known in the future as the Swiss Islands… :)

      • Max, where is this “solid” ice that you refer to?
        It can’t be on Greenland or Antarctica or any of the many alpine glaciers throughout the world.

        Cause the ice in those locations are full of cracks, moulins, and cravasses. You know what moulins are, right? Fluid drainage paths through the glaciers.

        Glaciers flow through the process of plastic deformation, haven’t you seen the pretty pictures that look like taffy flowing down candy mountain?

        And we don’t know how long it will take to melt if we raise the global temperature 2 more degrees C, which is highly likely even taking your preferred recent estimates of climate sensitivity, if we don’t curb emissions.

        But thanks for your thoughtful analysis.

      • Steven, look for the maps of the whole island of Greenland under the ice, not just the big canyon in the north.

      • Bob, there are no islands under Greenland. Perhaps you looked at elevation estimates and associated elevations below sea level with islands. There isn’t ice resting on water and likely the only reason parts of it are below sea level is due to a couple of miles of ice sitting on top of it. Also, you mentioned basal lubrication earlier. Recent studies have indicated this is not an important factor regarding ice loss from Greenland.

      • The point is that the Greenland icecap will not slip alarmingly suddenly into the sea, which the catastrophists so fondly hoped for just a few short years ago.

      • Look at this map, to me it looks like three separate landmasses. Or at least three separate paths as low enough for the basal melt water to drain to the sea.

        I didn’t mention basal lubrication as a means that could cause the ice sheet to slide into the sea, I mentioned the moulins as paths where the water from the surface melt of Greenland could drain to the sea. Do you remember the bridge and the loader video from last year?

        This says you are right about basal lubrication and its affect on the Greenland Ice sheet, but I never made that argument.

        The only arguments on Greenland I have are it’s melting based on GRACE mass balance and that in the past when it was warmer, there was less ice there. Straight from Hansen if you will.

        I am not making the collapse argument, and if you think I am, you are attacking a straw man.

      • Bob, yes that’s a map of topography comparing to sea level. Some parts are below sea level now but it seems unlikely that would be the case without the load from the ice. That’s why there is a canyon there from times there wasn’t ice. I did think you were making the basal lubrication argument but am perfectly willing to accept you weren’t. I only based that on your plastic deformation comment and increased dynamics aren’t very likely without basal lubrication having an effect. You are definately right that melted water can drain. At least I have never heard of any paper saying different. You already know my objections to GRACE data.

    • kim, darn it, I hate to see you miss an opportunity. Polar ice… polarize… you should be bursting forth in glorious song!

  4. Dave in Canmore

    From the synopsis: “even with a scientific upbringing, Balog…..”

    Anyone who attributes changes that have been occuring for thousands of years to a modern phenomenon with that much certainty has NO scientific upbringing! Period. This guy is a snake oil salesman.

    • For those who don’t get the joke, the Royal Canadian Air Farce was a radio comedy troupe on the CBC. Their character “Mike from Canmore” was a lovable bumbler, a clown whose colossal level of incomprehension of the world was as often informative as it was amusing.

      Is that what Dave is aiming for, too?

    • Agree. That’s the ‘Global Warming’ histeria in a nutshell – attributing changes that have been occuring for thousands of years to a modern phenomenon. Basically, a very popular superstition.

  5. I trust that the audience was informed that the IPCC figure of 215 Gt/yr of Greenland Ice Sheet loss, translates into about 3 inches/century of sea level rise.

    • and it is interesting that there has been no increase in the rate of sea level rise during all of this “melting”. When exactly (+/- say 5 years?) will the rate of sea level rise actually increase to match the dire forecasts?

      • Really?

        Your good friend Peter Gleick differs:

        Your pal Micheal Mann demures:

        Detailed Antarctic measurements say HaroldW’s wrong:

        Even if the rate of sea level rise weren’t increasing, a long enough duration sea level rise will be severely damaging to valuable wetlands:

        Is it possible there is some reason causing this indifference you two show toward the distinction between fact and made up crap?

      • Chief Hydrologist

        The oceans seem to be getting saltier – i.e. less volume as water evaporates and is precipitated over land.

        The 0.69 mm/yr from ARGO is an order of magnitude less than from satellite altimetry.

        I must admit to not looking at Bart’s links – assuming it his usual extreme framing of dubious data. Along with the obligatory insults.

      • Bart
        If arm waving were actual science then everyone would agree with your position.
        Peter Glick writes regarding sea level rise- “at risk from a 1.4 meter rise” (by 2100) and that we should not expect a linear trend but a exponential trend.
        Michael Mann claims that there is already undisputable evidence of a significant increase in the rate of sea level rise and that more will come “sometime” in the near future.
        What do we know vs. what do we believe?
        We know- with reasonable accuracy what the rate of global sea level rise has been since late 1992 and it has been pretty consistent at a bit over 3.2 mm per year. There has been no evidence of any significant long term increase in the rate of sea level rise since we have had reasonably reliable data on the topic.
        We have rough estimates of sea level rise prior to late 1992. We have less than reliable data on the changes of land height at different locations around the world and less than reliable data on the specific changes in sea level at specific locations. We can infer that the rate of sea level rise has increased to what it is today, but there is not a means to tie any rate increase prior to 1992 to human actions.
        An exponential increase in the rate of sea level rise means that there needs to be such an increase in ice melting over land. Is there any evidence of such an increase? If you think the stadium wave is plausible then it is possible that ice levels will actually increase in the next 5 years. Where will all that extra water come from to make a rate of rise happen? With all the terrible melting in recent years that has been pointed to, why has it not shown up in the rate of sea level rise over the last 20 years?

      • Thanks, Bart for the links to ‘made up crap’. A gold star for you today.

      • “and it is interesting that there has been no increase in the rate of sea level rise during all of this “melting”. When exactly (+/- say 5 years?) will the rate of sea level rise actually increase to match the dire forecasts?”

        So you admit the oceans are still absorbing heat at the same rate and therefore a speed up in melt should cause sea level to rise faster?

      • Run away! … Run away! … Run away!

      • Lolwot wrote- “So you admit the oceans are still absorbing heat at the same rate and therefore a speed up in melt should cause sea level to rise faster?”

        I personally believe that the deep oceans are the key to the system overall but I do not claim to have modeled the system correctly. I agree with the concept of AGW but argue that we do not know the rate of warming associated with it with sufficient fidelity. I do not necessarily agree that there will be an increase in the rate of sea level rise, but absolutely agree it is possible. I do not claim to know what the differences in land height relative to sea level is changing around the world as the tectonic plates move over time, but do believe this issue is often overlooked in analyzing the overall situation. I do not claim to know how much global humidity will change over time and offset a potential sea level change.
        Bottom line- Yes, generally speaking, I agree that if there is an acceleration in the rate of ice melt over land, that it is likely that there will be some acceleration in the rate of sea level rise. The question is AGAIN, at what rate will this acceleration occur? Glick and Mann believe the current rate will more than triple. I see no reliable evidence to support their conclusions.

      • Rob Starkey

        You are right.

        The “rate of SL rise” is currently around 3 mm/year (IPCC).

        Over the 20thC it averaged 1.7 mm/year.(Holgate 2007)

        This would appear to indicate an “acceleration” in the rate of SL rise.

        But let’s look a bit closer.

        It averaged around 2.0 mm/year in the first half of the 20thC and around 1.4 mm/year in the second half. So there was a slight deceleration in SL rise over the 20thC.

        But there were large fluctuations in the decadal rate of SL change, from -1mm/year to +5mm/year.

        So the current 3 mm/year is well within the range of the 20thC and nothing unusual.

        It should be noted, however, that current SL measurements are made by satellite altimetry (which measures the entire ocean, except regions near coastlines and polar regions, which cannot be captured by satellites) while the tide gauge record measured SL at selected coastlines (where people live). So a direct comparison of the two is an “apples/oranges” comparison.


      • I know I shouldn’t post it but jim2 made me do it.
        Run aeay! ,…Run away! … Run away boys!

      • Here’s your “run away”, Beth.

      • More poweful than ‘The Mouse that Roared,’ Harold.
        And funnier than some ol’ ‘Extreme Ice!’ movie.

      • Bart R (3:15 pm) –
        The questioner asked, “How much did that iceberg contribute to global sea level rise?”

        It is important to put things in context. Although huge at 7.4 km^3, the iceberg would raise SLR by merely 20 microns. The larger question is what the GIS mass balance means for SLR, and AR5’s estimate of 215 Gt/yr (around 234 km^3/yr), amounts to less than 3 inches per century.

        If my math is wrong, please correct me.

      • HaroldW | October 23, 2013 at 9:28 am |

        Let’s circle around to this point, as people seem to love to ignore it:

        Even if the rate of sea level rise weren’t increasing, a long enough duration sea level rise will be severely damaging to valuable wetlands:

        Sea level rise dominating the globe for decades on end will extinguish salt marsh and other ocean margin habitat over time. This is costly to biodiversity and to those lucrative pursuits that rely on these habitats. Your 20 microns rise repeats with increasing frequency, and even if it were dropping or only level (which the non-cherry-picked data clearly shows is a false claim), would still by virtue of its long run positive character be doing harm.

        We don’t need to be wading in sea water in downtown to suffer damages.

        However, we have seen time and again across multiple variables in Nature, that constancy isn’t the usual property of change, and sigmoid functions dominate rises. So it is on general principle a good caution to observe that if there is a transition due SLR, that transition might become exponential at some point for some duration because that’s how large, complex systems make their transitions, typically.

        We don’t need to be certain of a Risk outcome to consider the Risk itself is too costly to accept without compensation on consent. Are you going to compensate everyone on the planet for the Risk your position entails? Are you going to obtain everyone’s consent?

      • Salt Marshes are created by the interaction of land and water. Salt marshes will not disappear if sea level rises. They will move. A small number may submerge. New ones will be born. Note that sea level has in fact risen to reach its current level yet we still have salt marshes.

        Only if sewa level were to rise abruptly and significantly might we see a reduction in the amount of sea marshes; and it would be only a temporary reduction untll the forces of wind and water got caught up on making new ones.

      • Bart,

        I am curious, and you may be able to help.

        Although sea shells are found quite high in the Nepal Himalaya (amongst other places), I am happy enough to believe that these are not evidence of a 25,000 ft. drop in sea level.

        Is this the result of lifting the Himalaya from below sea level to its present elevation, and if so, what effect did this have on sea levels?

        I believe some plates are rising, and some are falling. What are the measurable effects on the perceived sea level?

        Do you know? I don’t, but I would like to. Thanks for your help.

        Live well and prosper,

        Mike Flynn.

      • Bart R | October 23, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
        I’m pleased that you seem to have found no fault in my math — I had been concerned that there might have been a decimal point put wrong.
        You talk about the perils of SLR “for decades on end”, yet the figures for a century — surely that qualifies as “decades” — are for mere inches from the GIS.

        Yes, any trend extrapolated indefinitely will eventually be a problem, even more so if one can invoke putative exponential changes. For example: world population was perhaps 1.5 billion in 1900 but had quadrupled by 2000…extrapolating, there will be around 100 billion persons in 2200, and over a trillion souls in 2400. Oh my, how crowded!

        The point, which you seem to be avoiding, is that spectacles such as the calving of a giant iceberg are, well, spectacular. But not necessarily meaningful. The GIS mass balance figure of -215 Gt/yr is not, in and of itself, a significant factor in sea level. It is merely a [largish] “drop in the ocean.”

        One may be concerned about this; if the value increases by an order of magnitude it will become noticeable over a century. But such is not the case now.

      • Ian H | October 23, 2013 at 8:52 pm |

        Your simplistic salt marsh model is simply wrong according to studies. More accurately, it has optimistic assumptions not borne out by observations.,%20James.pdf is just one presentation. You’ll like it. It’s in slide show format.

        While sea level rise creates new salt water intrusions, salt marsh area is show to fall with sea level rise at current levels, and to extinguish entirely beyond tipping points.

        Sure, eventually new salt marshes will establish in new areas, but they will take time and be slow to get started and still be subject to the same constant creeping rise that will leave salt marsh habitat permanently stressed. This is like trying to build a city while all the buildings are constantly burning down and pointing out that there is new land on the outer edge.. that you also plan to burn down while you’re building on.

        Mike Flynn | October 23, 2013 at 9:12 pm |

        If you’re curious, get a friend whose into whatever you’re into; I’m not interested in accommodating your curiosity.

        HaroldW | October 24, 2013 at 1:30 pm |

        The pathology of your math is really the least of your problems. How is that a comfort to you?

        The point, which you seem to be avoiding, is that spectacles such as the calving of a giant iceberg are, well, spectacular. But not necessarily meaningful.

        The counterpoint, that you keep missing, is that you’re nitpicking visual representations of a small part of something much larger that you entirely fail to acknowledge, and relying entirely on that logical fallacy to sustain an absurd position. You’re holding to the most nugatory interpretation of data, and the most logic-free approach to inference, to deny that these risks are growing due to GHG emission by industry and abdicate responsibility for compensating the victims of this harm by the perpetrators.

      • Mike Flynn (October 23, 2013 at 9:12 pm): “I believe some plates are rising, and some are falling. What are the measurable effects on the perceived sea level?”
        According to this, the effect of plate movement, principally the rebound of continents which has been occurring since the loss of glaciers several thousand years ago, increases the ocean basin size. Univ. of Colorado includes 0.3 mm/yr in its current estimate of 3.2 mm/yr for sea level rise, to account for this.

      • BartR (October 25, 2013 at 1:07 pm)
        “a small part of something much larger…” Well, it seems that you are tacitly agreeing that the current GIS melt rate is a small thing. I consider that progress. And in fact, that was the only point in my comment. Perhaps if you examine the other parts of this “larger thing” in turn, quantitatively, you’ll find that they, too, are smaller than you fear.

        Our conversation here is at an end. I thank you, and leave the final word to you; I shall read it but not respond.

      • HaroldW | October 25, 2013 at 11:41 pm |

        I don’t really do fear. Perhaps you have me confused with the people who think the economy will collapse if we switch from burning coal to methods that cost less than burning coal?

        And to be honest, the Antarctic melt is much, much larger at this point than I’d expected.

        Doubt me?

        Go back a year or more on CE and look at what I’d said about how the precipitation balance would pan out.

        I’d at first naively expected the Antarctic likely to remain quite stable until its average temperature rose tens of degrees. It turns out, it only takes a few degrees to destabilize the Antarctic and cause it to begin to measurably lose ice mass.

        You do grasp that the whole ‘small-large’ thing is relative, right?

        Comfort yourself with diminishing the harms to others you do, if you wish. Certainly, correcting the speck in others eyes while ignoring the beam in your own is cautioned about on ancient principles, but I’m not your priest, and I don’t care about your moral turpitude.

        I’m just pointing out some of the errors in your reasoning, not endorsing all your other errors. Who would have time?

      • Bart

        If you rules the planet, and if all the CO2 mitigations you support were implemented– when would the roughly 1 foot of sea level rise per century stop?

        Answer- you do not have a clue if or when it would stop or accelerate

      • Rob Starkey | October 28, 2013 at 10:57 am |

        But I don’t support any particular CO2 mitigations at all. Not a single one of them, in particular.

        I support CO2e pricing, because that is what capitalism says is the right way to handle economic scarcity. Attach a price mechanism, let the Law of Supply and Demand determine the price level, pay all revenues to everyone who breathes air equally, step back and let the Market sort it all out without interference.

        And your framing of a foot a century is just plain idiotic at this point. We know we’re not looking at a linear rise, and we’re certainly — by which I mean mathematical, scientific certainty — not looking at anything as low as a foot a century when the big sigmoid run up starts.

        If you’re asking what I predict the Market will choose to do?

        Swanson’s Law ( observes 20% drop in the price of solar per doubling of manufacturing capacity; a special application of the principle of economies of scale observing that solar is on the downward sloping part of the curve while all fossil is on the upward slope.

        So all new stationary capacity in fossil will rapidly become more expensive — with or without CO2e pricing, btw, merely sooner with CO2 pricing — while all solar will become more feasible, with the break-even coming around 2020. Since 2020 is only six years away and stationary electricity has about a six year planning cycle and a multidecadal payback time, it is simply bad financial decision making to choose fossil over solar. Given that this in principle was true decades ago, we know rational financial decision-making isn’t in charge of the electricity sector, so because the sector is ruled by the crazy, no rational prediction is possible.

        But if I were to impose rational decisions? Simple. It’s cheaper, not more expensive, to go net carbon negative with currently available technology right now, today. Solar, wind, pumped hydro, biochar/pyoil/syngas with hydrogen treatment, algae recovery of stationary CO2e, hugelkultur, bokashi, accelerated reforestation, geothermal nitrogen treatment, smart grids and smart nongrids, efficient appliances and buildings, it won’t take new developments in batteries or science fiction capacitors or weirdo green hippie compost-driven volkwagen vans. Six year planning cycles, replacing current installations (average turnover eight years for cars, 20-40 years for everything else), and industry would net remove CO2e from the atmosphere.. and it would do it cheaper than BAU.

        That’s 46 years to hit peak negative emission. Call it 26 years to hit par. And how long before the negative emission balances the three centuries of positive CO2e dumping? Likely three times as long, but at least it won’t be accelerating SLR while CO2e levels recede.

        Or, wouldn’t be, if crazy people weren’t running the game.

  6. Climate Alarm, 101: Always try to give an iceberg a name: then it’s like losing a member of your family when if calves off into the sea. It always helps if you can say something like, “it was the size of Rhode Island.”

  7. Too bad Leni Riefenstahl isn’t still around.

  8. How much did that iceberg contribute to global sea level rise? Well, unless it calved off before the 1860s it can’t have done much. That’s when Andrew Johnson or Ulysses Grant must have slowed the rising of the oceans.

  9. If the current trend continues in Antarctica (as well as the Arctic), wonder if he would be willing to do a sequel in a few years.

  10. Looks like the Antarctic is making a satellite era record!!

    • jim 2

      According to NSIDC, the Global (Arctic + Antarctic) sea ice extent was 25.12 million square km end September 2013, or within 0.7% of the 1979-2000 baseline value of 25.50 million square km.

      This is not only because of the record Antarctic sea ice extent, but also the rapid recovery seen in the Arctic, as compared to last year.


  11. The total ice chart is looking down right anomalous – up like a rocket!

  12. The cyclical pattern of Arctic versus Antarctic climate is not addressed. If Greenland is losing ice volume how much more volume is then building on Antarctica?

    Alarmists could always build a frightening scenario whichever end was at the warmer part of the cycle. Pure deception.

    • None, both antarctic and greenland land ice is decreasing.

      It is only the Antarctic sea ice that is increasing.

      • bob droege

        None, both antarctic and greenland land ice is decreasing.

        Long-term studies by ESA satellite altimetry from April 1992 to April 2003 showed that both Greenland (Johannessen, Zwally) and Antarctic (Wingham) ice sheets gained mass.

        More recent GRACE data are indicating a reversal of this long-term trend to mass loss, but the data are still too dicey due to bugs in the GRACE methodology. Let’s see what GRACE shows once they get the system de-bugged and have several years of good data.

        For now we can only say for sure that both ice sheets gained mass over the period 1992-2003.

        Anything else is conjecture, Bob.


  13. From watching the trailer, I asked myself, where have I seen something like this before? On a boat, watching the calving of the Columbia Glacier in Glacier National Park; on a trek on top of the Mendenhall Glacier. These two glaciers have been observed moving far longer than the last increase in global surface temperate (1979 to 1999) and the jump in climate alarmism.

    The message to me: if I had gone to Greenland, had undergone severe deprivation, risking life and limb, then the story line I tell is much more believable and should be taken much more seriously than making similar observations while standing on a ship’s deck with field glasses watching a glacier calving.

    The message that glaciers move is wrapped in the context of CAGW. I guess the fact that I had my parka one and a cup of hot tea in my hand on board makes my observations much much less worthwhile.

    The take home message: drama drives the story line. Otherwise, one trashy novel after another would be boring. CAGW is a trashy novel story line made compelling by the surrounding drama. “We are all going to die!!!!”

  14. “The good news (for everybody) is that Balog is much more likable than Al Gore in Inconvenient Truth.”

    So is Pee Wee Herman, but…

  15. Thanks for an informative review, but I must say it is not good news for “everybody” if Balog is more likable than Gore (or other prominent alarmists). This kind of pure “sensationalism” is only justifiable if there truly is a catastrophic threat to humanity. Otherwise, he is harnessing such vivid visual imagery to mislead people. More likable propaganda is still pernicious unless it is furthering sound scientific and policy ends.

  16. When I was much younger and read The Republic, I was scandalized by Socrates’ notion that poets should be regulated or worse. As I grow older, I increasingly get the wisdom of this.

  17. This reference to Arctic ice melting/glaciers can have a useful counterpoint by quoting a few passages from the extended version of my recent article ‘historic variatioons in arctic ice 1920-1950′ which include a lot of observational material on glaciers. Hrere are a few relevant extracts;
    —— ——
    1) The following extract from the Pisarev data usefully introduces two prominent scientists of the era, Zubov and Alman, whose work we shall examine in greater detail shortly. (Note; there are various spellings of ‘Alman’ used)

    “During the Persey cruise in 1934 Zubov noticed that the glaciers of Jan-Mayen and Spitsbergen were considerably reduced, relative to their sizes adduced in British sailing directions of 1911. Retreat of glaciers was observed also at Spitsbergen, Franz-Joseph Land (Russia), and Novaya Zemlya (Russia). The ice bridges between some of Franz-Joseph islands melted.

    Alman explored the glaciers of Spitsbergen in 1934 and came to the conclusion that they were melting. The observations of 1935–1938 showed that Iceland glaciers were melting too.”
    —— ——

    2)The Early Twentieth-Century Warming in the Arctic—A Possible Mechanism


    Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany, and Environmental Systems Science Centre, University of Reading,
    Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany, and Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Moscow, Russia
    Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center/Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway

    The Arctic 1920–40 warming is one of the most puzzling climate anomalies of the twentieth century. Over some 15 yr the Arctic warmed by 1.78C and remained warm for more than a decade. This is a warming in the region comparable in magnitude to what is to be expected as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change in the next several decades. A gradual cooling commenced in the late 1940s bringing the temperature back to much lower values, although not as cold as before the warming started. …this warming was associated with and presumably initiated by a major increase in the westerly to southwesterly wind north of Norway leading to enhanced atmospheric and ocean heat transport from the comparatively warm North Atlantic Current through the passage between northern Norway and Spitsbergen into the Barents Sea….the increased winds were not related to the NAO, which in fact weakened during the 1920s and remained weak for the whole period of the warm Arctic anomaly. …the process behind the warming was most likely reduced sea ice cover, mainly in the Barents Sea. This is not an unexpected finding because of the climatic effect of sea ice in comparison with that of an open sea but is intriguing since previously available sea ice data (Chapman and Walsh 1993) did not indicate a reduced sea ice cover in the 1930s and 1940s. However, as we have shown here recent sea ice datasets [Johannessen et al. (2004) give a detailed presentation] actually showed a retreat in this period

    ———- —-
    3)“…the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea adopt(ed) the following resolution at its meeting in Denmark in 1948: “Having considered a number of lectures on climatic fluctuations, the Council recommends that these important and far reaching problems (melting of glaciers) ought to be more closely investigated, and that these investigations might be adequately supported by the Governments in the different countries”

    ——- ———

    4)The references concerning the long established retreat of the glaciers-and the specific reference to Alaska- can be put into its context and given a useful time frame here:
    “Glacier Bay was first surveyed in detail in 1794 by a team from the H.M.S. Discovery, captained by George Vancouver. At the time the survey produced showed a mere indentation in the shoreline. That massive glacier was more than 4,000 feet thick in places, up to 20 miles wide, and extended more than 100 miles to the St. Elias mountain range. By 1879, however, naturalist John Muir discovered that the ice had retreated more than 30 miles forming an actual bay. By 1916, the Grand Pacific Glacier- the main glacier credited with carving the bay – had melted back 60 miles to the head of what is now Tarr Inlet.”

    ——– ——-

    I believe this chart to be a reasonable representation of glacier movements over the last 3000 years. They come and go with some regularity irrespective of the big Ice age.

    • Imagine being an Icelander watching that Breiðamerkurjökull glacier inching closer to your home during the LIA. The ancestors thought a settlement on the coast at Jokulsa River was a great idea, with the glacier 20 kilometres away around 900AD.

      But what do real estate hungry old-timers ever know about climate change, right? Their children’s children paid the price!

    • Tony, thanks much for this

  18. “More likable propaganda is still pernicious unless it is furthering sound scientific and policy ends.”

    In fact, it’s more pernicious.

    • Correct, more pernicious if more effective on behalf of unworthy ends.

      Btw, is there any evidence that filmmaker Balog was ever credibly ‘skeptical’ about CAGW, or is that merely a (dishonest??) “skeptic conversion” meme??

      • Having no knowledge of the man, perhaps unfair to speculate. But let’s put it this way, I doubt very much that he started out with the idea of exposing CAGW as a fraud.

  19. Judith

    The BBC screened a superb documentary on the Arctic some months ago. The falling glacier in the first shot here was identical to a description made of the same event by Mrs Peary who travelled to the Arctic with Bob Bartlett in the motor vessel ‘Morrissey’ in the 1930’s. His adventures amongst the melting ice were shown on Pathe news reel in the cinema to our grandparents. What short memories we have.

    The point I want to make is that in this film and the BBC series the evidence of considerable soot/carbon on the ice was plain to see and this extended into the ice caverns.

    Similar comments on soot were made by Scoresby in his 1820 Royal Society sanctioned exploration of the Melting arctic in the 1820’s. At that time the US was held to blame.

    We used to put soot from our coal fires directly onto our icy paths to melt them . It worked a treat. More investigations of the source of the soot and the likely damage it is causing would be useful.

    Got any posts on this aspect lined up Judith?


    • Definitely a good topic and square in the middle of my expertise. Swamped for the next few weeks (including much travel), so such a post won’t happen anytime soon, unfortunately.

      • Judith

        So, what’s more important, your travel and career, or educational entertainment for your denizens? Don’t answer that…

      • Actually, if I could figure out how to make blogging pay, I would much rather blog. However, my forthcoming trip to the Netherlands will provide much good fodder for for the denizens :)

      • Actually, if I could figure out how to make blogging pay, I would much rather blog.

        You could always include advertising. Why, I made a whole $0.06 last month from Google Adsense.

        With your number of hits, you might actually get somewhere.

      • I’ll eventually look into that

      • Chief Hydrologist

        What you really need is big oil sponsorship – set up a secret bank account in Geneva.

      • curryja | October 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm |

        You could charge trolls by the word and by the decoration.

      • McSteve uses a tip jar. (So do I, I once got a 10.00 tip for a post somebody liked.)

      • I like the charging by the ‘decoration’ idea. Maybe charging $1 for the word ‘Hansen’ might work, too.

  20. Oh, please, c’mon, now I’ve read a little of the head post. This guy, another ‘converted skeptic’, assumes attribution to human GHGs and assumes catastrophe from AGW.


    • I wandered so aimless life filled with coal,
      I wouldn’t let my dear EPA glow,
      Then lost Ice came like a stranger in the night,
      Praise Mike Mann I saw the light.

      • Long I wandered weak and weary,
        Ice like guilt and freight of feary.
        Far off, through the icy blow,
        Coal, it’s seams, alight the glow.

      • Chicken Littles are belting
        “Glaciers are melting!!”
        And Warmers ran away with the silverware


  21. I like the excruciating condescension in that sentence about him having been a skeptic despite some scientific background. That attempts, but oddly fails from its own clumsiness, to frame skeptics as unscientific, when in fact many skeptics display scientific knowledge and curiosity well above the mean.

    • Indeed Kim. A skeptic that isn’t a Neanderthal. Hold the presses!

    • Those who know CO2 level is 400ppm have more scientific knowledge than the mean. But often those skeptics who know that fact let it lead them to a false conclusion.

      So no, scientific knowledge and curiosity are not enough. A scientific background adds something more: ability to critically examine ideas.

      • Heh, skeptics are more critically examining ideas than the catastrophists are.

      • In the context of climate science sadly it seems to be the skeptics these days who are doing most of the critical examining.

    • Yeah with skeptics that think Greenland is bowl shaped and Ice is solid and doesn’t plastically flow under pressure who needs real scientists?

  22. If you want to see a landscape that may never again be seen by civilization you can accomplish almost anyplace that has been popular with humanity over the last few thousand years by going there and digging.

  23. I want to defend this little movie because it embraces standards that are as American as apple pie, namely, the NBA’s standards. Have you ever watched the highlight reel for a basketball game? Never mind that player X dominated on defense and was the deciding factor in the game. What you are going to see on the highlight reel is every unimportant dunk by players W, Y, and Z. Hey, what makes good video is what you get to see. With values like that, how can you criticize a movie maker?

    • Sort a shot from the grassy knoll of where the Kennedy motorcade drove by or–e.g., show a glacier the size of Rhode Island calving off the continent of Antarctica and then cut to the tidal wave at Fukushima?

  24. “Within the last decade,the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) and its surroundings have experienced record high surface temperatures”

    And the records began when? And the Greenland ice sheet is how old?

    Such statements are entirely without meaning unless the true context is provided.

  25. Chased By Ice: The Sequel.

    One man’s attempt to avoid freezing to death in Antarctica

  26. There seems to be some argument as to whether the current temperature “haitus” is even worth mentioning in regards to climate because it’s only about 13 years long. How long is Balog’s observational dataset?

    • No, lolwot.

      WfT has drawn a linear trend line for the past decade, and it shows cooling at a rate of about 0.05C per decade despite unabated human GHG emissions and concentrations reaching record levels.

      IOW, the “CO2 climate control knob” has dropped off into Andy Lacis’ hand and something else is driving our climate.


      If this cooling rate continues over the rest of this century, it will almost wipe out the whole warming of the past century.

      Aren’t you worried?

      Break out your woolies, lolwot.


    • lolwot

      As you can see the green line continues upward. It’s heading right towards the middle of your line!

      You think it won’t smash through it?


      Because the trend has now reversed from warming to cooling, as the WfT data from 2002 show.

      So if the current cooling trend were to continue for another 8 decades or so, it would essentially wipe out all the warming of the 20thC.

      Now I’m not predicting that will happen, but it’s certainly just as likely to happen as IPCC’s “worst case BaU scenario” RCP8.5, with 3.7C warming until 2100.


    • lolwot,

      There seems to be a lot of meaningless argy bargy about which curves mean what to whom.

      The longest term average we have shows that the surface of the Earth has cooled in excess of 4000 K.

      Even though there are still some portions of the surface in excess of 1200 K, the overall trend has been remorselessly downwards.

      When the surface was molten, and the atmosphere probably 95% CO2 at 100 bars or so, it cooled, in spite of the far greater internal heat generated by the radioactive decay process at that time.

      When CO2 levels were 15000 ppm, it continued to cool.

      When the average surface temperature was 300 K, it continued to cool.

      It will continue to cool until it is isothermal throughout, below the depth at which the diurnal influence of the Sun can be measured. As the core temperature is estimated to be in excess of 4500 K, I assume this will take quite some time.

      Surface temperatures on the Earth vary widely. Molten lava is quite hot. Parts of the exposed surface get extremely cold. The abyssal depths are prevented from freezing by virtue of the fact that they are separated, in general, by a few kilometers of rock, from a rather large amount of glowing molten mantle. Contrary to popular opinion, solid rock is not a terribly good insulator.

      Good luck with your graphs. Hopefully, they will provide as much insight into the future as the charts and graphs prepared by expert astrologers. I understand that astrologers charge money for their output, so you will probably have to depend on the free stuff. It’s probably worth what you paid for it!

      Feel free to ask me for further information. I’m always happy to help.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

      • You make a good point, Mike. The CO2 trend was looking quite catastrophic, before mankind started clearing land and burning forests, dung, coal and stuff. We were down to our last 200 something parts per million and the mindless plants were voraciously sucking it up in an indulgent orgy of growth at any cost. We are saved! I am going to buy another Escalade. A black one, with rims and extra aircon. I am lollie’s worst nightmare. he he he

      • Mike Flynn, yes, but on a sensible note, the Milankovitch trend should still be negative and the Holocene was cooling through the LIA, but then that abruptly stopped. Something else happened to cause that LIA recovery that skeptics like to talk about, not Milankovitch, and the solar change only accounts for a small part. What else could it be during an orbital phase that should favor expanding NH sea ice?

      • unicorns, jimmy dee

      • Jim D,

        May I respectfully point out that the NH is not the Earth.

        The Milankovitch trend is meaningless in this context. The Earth’s orbit is elliptical, not circular, and is somewhat erratic into the bargain. The shape of the Earth changes slightly as the mantle and other parts rearrange themselves in three dimensions,

        The Sun’s perceived output varies moment to moment, and the Earth’s axis wobbles, precesses, and librates with respect to the Sun, I guess.

        In spite of all this, as far as is known, preventing the Earth from cooling would be about as impossible as preventing molten lava from cooling.

        Obviously, at any given time, some parts of the Earth will be colder than others. This makes no difference, overall. The Earth continues to cool. Obviously, 7 billion people furiously oxidising carbon should generate a measurable amount of heat – primarily on or near the surface.

        Please correct me if I have erred in matters of fact.

        Live well and prosper,

        Mike Flynn.

    • You are all chasing adjustments, not actual temperature records.

      Do you not see?

      Right at +0.75°C/cy since 1940, +0.0075°C/decade since 1940, these apx. adjustment rates are even published on each dataset’s site if you look deep enough through their pages, they are there and I see not “pause” in these adjustments being applied even to this day. See bob droege’s plot at: , calculate the slope, ≈+0.75°C/cy. until the adjustments cease you will always be just chasing the adjustments.

  27. Some good resources on glacier images:

    As for the significance of the occurrence of a hockey stick in the data, one only has to look at some ENSO data from 1991 – 1997. If each annual data point equaled 300 years, that would total 2100 years. The important point is half the data relevant to the uptick is missing. Upticks at the end of a series are statistically meaningless. The uptick must be in the center of the data series.

  28. Mr James Balog has only proven that: he was NEVER a skeptic; he is lying! National Geographic would never send a skeptic to do their dirty job.

    On Iceland are active volcanoes and hot vents – one day will build up snow on a particular place -= next day would melt, because of the volcanic activity = perfect place for Hollywood trickery

  29. “Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.”

    What, another former muddle headed, science denying skeptic seeing the error of his ways because of the startling discovery that ice melts when it gets warm?

    Now I wonder why a true believing organ of the CAGW political relations camp like National Geographic would send a skeptic, with an entourage, on well funded, multi-year search to find out whether ice was melting or not?

    Weren’t they lucky that after spending so much of their money, he finally saw the error of his ways and joined the Church of Anthroprogenic Global Warming? And just think what might have happened if he went the wrong way and filmed increasing ice in areas of Antarctica. Thank heavens he managed to stumble on to an area where ice was melting.

    Whew, that was a close one!

    Now if only he could have gotten some slow motion footage of a baby polar bear falling to its death as it slid off the edge of some rapidly melting ice cliff, because of global warming, of course.

  30. Robert Austin

    “9-yr of GRACE data contain a long-term climate signal of mass loss acceleration in these regions”

    Nine years of data contain a long term climate signal? What are these guys smoking?

  31. Another load of climate alarmist crap from yet another wet behind the ears fixer of what he personally perceives to be another of the world’s manmade climate catastrophes.
    The real problem is not the Greenland ice cap which is supposedly losing ice or the unproven rise in sea levels or the warming that isn’t.

    The real problems reside in the beliefs of all those wet behind the ears [ wet behind the ears; the last place a newborn is washed by it’s mother ] newbies who are less than 45 years old and believe that the world and the climate have never changed in any way for some 3 billion years until they personally arrived on the scene, got excited about some entirely natural event that has endlessly repeated itself down through the aeons of time and reported it as another man made climate catastrophe which by implication has never happened ever before they arrived on the scene.

    Those types who have lived in an urban environment and are under about 50 years of age really don’t have the personal experience or knowledge and have rarely experienced for any length of time or had to deal with and make a living from a Nature that works it’s subtle but harsh and unforgiving rawness regardless of the desires and beliefs of men.
    In short few of them with their sophisticated and fixated urban mentality have a clue about the real Nature and real world and it’s constant changing and shifting outside of their own personal belief bubble.
    But they show no inhibitions at all in attempting to force their urban bubble view of Nature and how Nature is supposed to act until we suposedly mess it up, onto the rest of mankind.

    In my 75 years I can identify at least 4 such climate shifts and their consequent changes in the following seasons, each climate shift being different in degree and consequences to that of the others,
    I have watched vegetation changes, some quite significant, where I lived over at least 60 years.

    i suspect if one ran a survey on skepticsm amongst rural folk older than say about 60 years, they would find the by far highest degree of skepticsm about anthropogenic climate change of any sector of the populace at large.
    We have been there, done that, seen, experienced, dealt with, battled survived those shifts in climate and the weather and know first hand that Nature and climate are never steady, never static, always changing and always doing so in ways we can never anticipate or often even understand why.

    Nope! Nothing wrong with the Greenland ice cap. It’s just doing what it always has done and thats melting and freezing.
    It’s the ignorance of Nature by an ignorant fool that is on full display.

  32. I’d be much more worried if glaciers stopped calving altogether.

    • M Hastings

      Saw your note about Spencer’s forecast. I will keep a diary of the actual weather here in the south west of England and see how good is it

  33. From the film’s Synopsis:

    “Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.”
    “One man’s mission to change the tide of history?” Well, we can safely exclude humility (not to mention a sense of proportion) from Balog’s list of virtues. On the debit side, we can add a Messiah complex.

    ” … gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet … “. If he could gather undeniable evidence of a static planet, that would indeed be remarkable.

    Then we have words like – boldest, extreme, young adventurers, revolutionary (time-lapse cameras are revolutionary in 2005? Oh, please), and brutal.

    What does this have to do with science in any shape or form? It’s just another bunch of rich kids having an adventure – which fortunately didn’t kill them – while claiming to save the world.

    They have been reading too many superhero comics.

    • If I had a nickel for every CAGWer with a Messiah complex, I’d be fat, stupid, and happy. And extremely rich.

    • Agree with your analysis!

    • They do sound like a preening, puffed up lot, Johanna. I can’t spare the satellite bandwidth on watching more glaciers calve, but the introductory posturing is so juvenile and conceited one is reminded of Steven Schneider’s 70s video about saving the planet from Global Cooling. (So long as you’ve got “Global” and “video” in there it doesn’t matter whether it’s about cooling or warming, does it? Surely it’s more about moral and intellectual superiority, deep earnestness and outdoor fashions.)

      Love the bit about how he was once a skeptic till the evidence overwhelmed and sent him on his “mission”. That Damascus Road stuff is like a re-run of the Lucy Show. It’s old but evergreen.

  34. Yeah looking at his chasing ice website I have to say there is a coolness factor there that should spawn a whole new generation of adventure seeking munchkins ready to make their mark. National geographic is more hip than ever. Score one for the alarmists you stuffy old skeptics.

  35. Judith Curry,

    How about that converted-skeptic narrative? Does James Balog address that, and offer support?

    Can it in fact be independently established/is it generally known/accepted that Balog was a skeptic before this project?

    GaryM’s argument, that NatGeo would have problems sending someone off with their $$$, and a skeptical stance toward CAGW, is a very good argument.

    His Wikipedia entry sounds like he has had a strongly developed eco-enviro orientation for a long time. Being a climate-sceptic in that community would be very unusual.

    If there is anything more compelling that a conversion-testimony, it would be discovering that it was a ploy from the outset.


  36. Reduction in Arctic sea ice extent follows the increase in negative NAO conditions down to at least a seasonal scale. A weaker vortex will cause incursions of temperate air into the Arctic, and the negative NAO will cause greater transport of warmer water from the Atlantic into the Arctic, the latter being the greater cause of ice loss:

    Greenland will be effected more by the atmospheric effects of a negative NAO than rises in Arctic sea temperature.

  37. Um, if a glacier terminates in the ocean, what will be the effect of faster growth? No tree grows to the sky, and no glacier grows to the equator.

    So it will calve. If a glacier is shrinking, it is not calving, it is draining away from the base, and simply receding.

    So, all drivel about “unstable ice sheets” aside, calving means glacier growth.


  38. This comes on the heels of PBS’s NOVA: Inside the Megastorm, about Sandy, that I just watched on DVR but was broadcast here a couple of weeks ago.
    It talks about rising sea-levels, ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica, Netherlands efforts over the years, possible plans for New York and the Mississippi delta. Good program. The AGW science is perhaps too mainstream for some here, however.

  39. Chasing Ice definitely supports government concerns.

    Two recent videos illustrate the concerns of the public.

  40. Climate change is not science; it’s a political religion.

  41. How about we just have the warmests be contestants on the new reality series “Naked and Afraid”?

  42. Retrograde Orbit

    Wagathon: Why do you say that?
    Do you realize that that is pretty much what the creationists say about the theory of evolution?

    • Retrograde Orbit,

      Just in case Wagathon in shaking in his boots, terrified by your piercing yet strangely irrelevant question, I am compelled to answer on his behalf.

      What are you talking about? Climate change is not science – and any amount of handwaving will not make it so. Science involves the use of the scientific method – climatology is as scientific as numerology, but less so than astrology.

      I am sure you can provide a fact or two to support your implication that climate change is somehow scientific in nature.

      Or maybe not.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

  43. As for the issue of whether Balog’s iceberg was anything special, it was estimated that the iceberg had a volume of 7.4 cubic km. Compare this with with the Aug 2010 iceberg from the Peterman Glacier in northwest Greenland, that was estimated to be 260 square km.
    Apples and Pears?

    • Balog’s iceberg was really an itty bitty bit of iceberg barely worthy the consideration of being called an Iceberg .
      In fact it would have barely rated as a pimple on the backside of the BIG icebergs that we freeze up down herein the Southern Hemisphere’ s Antarctic.

      B15 broke off the Ross Ice Shelf which is about the size of France, in March 2000..
      It was 285 kms long and 37 kms wide with an area of 11,000 sq kms.

      For Americans thats a bit smaller than Connecticut at 12,500 sq kms and twice the size of Delaware at 5,000 sq kms.
      For Europeans B15’s area was nearly half the size of Turkey and of Slovenia and larger than Cyprus and Azerbaijan and going down from there

      6 years later the largest bits of B15 were still drifting around, B15A still had an area of 1700 sq kms.

      B15, Now thats what I would call a REAL Iceberg

  44. Beware of any one who claims “I was a sceptic but….” when producing a Mann Made Global Warming ™ video!!!!!



  45. Dr. Strangelove

    Why don’t Georgia Tech and National Geographic make a film about the voyages to North Pole of USS Skate in 1958 and 1959?

    “the Skate found open water both in the summer and following winter. We surfaced near the North Pole in the winter through thin ice less than 2 feet thick… We came up through a very large opening in 1958 that was 1/2 mile long and 200 yards wide.” – James Hester (USS Skate crew member)

    See nice photos

    From National Snow & Ice Data Center

    “most of the Arctic is covered by sea ice 2 to 3 meters (6 to 9 feet) thick. Some Arctic regions are covered with ice that is 4 to 5 meters (12 to 15 feet) thick.”

    Less sea ice in 1958? Certainly warmer in Greenland in the Medieval era when the Vikings were farming.

    • A recent National Geographic article covers the USS Skate surfacing with one sentence:

      “The first watercraft to reach the North Pole was a nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilis, in 1958. Another U.S. submarine, the USS Skate, broke through the sea ice to surface near the North Pole about a year later.”

      The actual “first submarine surfacing at the North Pole” by Skate occurred at the end of winter 1958/59. There are archived Navy photographs commemorating the event.

      WUWT gave it (and other submarine surfacings at the North Pole) a bit more coverage:

      An earlier article in National Geographic (July 1959) covered the Skate surfacing in more detail, but I cannot find the archive online.


    • By 1973, I was sorely dissappointed that our submarines were no longer routinely or regularly surfacing through the Arctic Ocean ice. It was partly strategic & tactical stuff, but it was also that the ice had gotten a lot thicker, required heavier grunting and then damaged things easier, just slidding off and shifting around.

      But I still got to take Polar Bear Guard training.

      • Must of had a decent security clearance back then!

        At least two factors may have lead to that.

        Submarines were not up there to take in the sights, we were up there, and it’s not the royal we this time, to find and sink Russian ballistic missile subs.

        And the advent of the Los Angelos class of submarine, which was not designed to surface through ice, because the fairwater planes were attached to the sail and were not capable of turning vertical, like earlier classes. The Skate and others didn’t have fairwater planes as well.

        And where did you get the idea that the ice got thicker between 1958 and 1973, sounds like a sea story to me. And I have sailed the arctic.

      • bob droege,

        Enlisted Navy Nuclear Power, 1970

        Nuke school Mare Island, CA. S5G prototype, ID.

        USS Drum SSN 677, deployed 1973

        Actually, baseball and other games on the ice-pack were popular. Guys preferred an open lead over punching a hole, because then there would be open water for playing, as well as specialized training.

        Surfacing through the ice was extremely popular, and submariners tracked policy & practice closely. In the fleet, it was talked-up a lot.

        The first Los Angeles boats weren’t as good in the ice (like I say, surfacing had declined by then) but this error was soon realized and the later LA-class was changed to be better than Thresher-class, etc, at forcing through ice. The remain LA boats in service are the ice-breakers.

        The advent of satellites would obviously mean that a sub in the ice wasn’t necessarily out of view, or undetectable. Subs normally never surface at sea … and any chunk of steel spotted out in the ice is likely to be something worth checking out.

        It was ‘common knowledge’ in the Navy, both in subs and the surface fleet too (who, after all, also conduct ice-ops…), that Arctic Ocean ice had steadily gotten thicker throughout the early nuclear propulsion era. The main discussion-point was, would it continue getting heavier, or would it cycle back thinner again.


      • I still say BS on the ice thickening during that period, and I notice you claim to have been a snipe, and most of us avoided the sonar techs, we called them something else, but they were the ones who would know how thick the ice was.

        Almost all the old hands on the sub I was on were from the “Bus” and they said that the transit across the arctic was as tricky a maneuver as one would want to make, due to the underwater ice ridges, which you could get stuck in. But we weren’t up there to play baseball, but then your class had crap for sonar and were noisy as a freight train, so you might as well surface and play ball.

        USS Atlanta SSN712

        I see that they got rid of the fairwater planes for the later 688’s,

        Did you ever drink beer in a cave in ID?

      • No BS, Bob.

        Sea Ice Cover

        D. Perovich – 1, R. Kwok – 2, W. Meier – 3, S. Nghiem – 2, J. Richter-Menge – 1

        1 – ERDC-Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, NH
        2 – Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
        3 – CIRES/NSIDC, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

        October 19, 2009

        The recent satellite estimates were compared with the longer historical record of declassified sonar measurements from US Navy submarines (Figure S4b). Within the submarine data release area (covering ~38% of the Arctic Ocean), the overall mean winter thickness of 3.6 m in 1980 can be compared to a 1.9 m mean during the last winter of the ICESat record—a decrease of 1.7 m in thickness. This combined submarine and satellite record shows a long-term trend of sea ice thinning over submarine and ICESat records that span three decades.

        It is supported, that regional arctic warming reduced the icecap, from the 1920s to the 1940s. Then, at mid-century with weak ice, the trend reversed, with cooling proceeding until the late 1970s, and coincidentally the advent of the satellite era.

        see: Historic Variations in Arctic sea ice. Part II: 1920-1950

        The Bering Strait is hard to transit in a sub, being shallow & fast. In the Arctic Ocean (Basin), there’s plenty of clearance, above & below. If we’re worried about underwater ice-ridges, we’re jammed between the bottom & the ice, sucking mud with the cooling-water, and we’re not in the ocean – we’re in the surf.

        Which does happen, of course (for good reasons) … but the ice cap we’re talking about is up north on the real ocean.

        I visited the moon, in ID.


      • Ted Clayton

        Too bad that NOAA Arctic sea ice thickness chart you cite (Fig S4.) only shows submarine data after 1975 (thickening up to around 1982, then reversing to a thinning trend, which has been confirmed by ICESat data since 2004).

        The earlier thickening trend has been truncated by NOAA.

        But you can’t convince Bob Droege with facts. He probably believes that the USS Skate North Pole surfacing in March 1959 was staged somewhere near San Diego.


      • Thanks, Max!

        Declassification is an ongoing – slow – deal. Pres. Clinton had this project moving … then 9/11. A lot of this data has a low classification, the main bottleneck being, finding the people to go through it and make sure what is actually being released.

        Surface fleets, and non-nuke vessels, also have sonar, etc … and the Russians have a lot of data, which I suspect at some point they will find useful to release, to enhance their claim to their patch of the Arctic.

        In a conservative-trending political climate … there is simply HUGE military data that would mostly be ‘not a big deal’, to release. Military weather & climate capability & activity literally dwarfs all the civilian agencies, combined.

        By land, on the sea, under the sea, by air, and above the air in space … at over 100 major bases located around world … military data & analysis render The President’s Cabinet a mere figleaf.


      • i’d like the release of the clouds over the Bakken Ridge eruption in 1999 to help determine if they covered open sea or not.

      • Bakken … the oil formation in the northern Prairies?

  46. Ten long years have passed since Dr Vandamn warned us that snow would be a rare an interesting event. Ten years with the northwest and northeast passages opened to millions of tonnes of shipping and millions of tourists enjoying the balmy days on holiday at the poles. Yet still we deny?
    Ten years of declining polar bear populations with only ten in number left to roam the mini bergs remain.
    Yet still we deny.

    • Dr. Strangelove

      I don’t deny that less Arctic sea ice is wonderful. I deny polar bear population is declining.

      “If polar bears had any clue of the scale of speculation about the extinction threat they are facing due to climate change, they would have probably said, “you’re kidding, right?”

      “A 2002 U.S. Geological Survey of wildlife in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain noted that the polar bear populations ‘may now be near historic highs,'”

      “Dr. Chad Dick, of the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromso, after researching the log books of Arctic explorers spanning the past 300 years, believes the outer edge of sea ice may expand and contract over regular periods of 60 to 80 years. According to his research findings, he concluded, “the recent worrying changes in Arctic sea ice are simply the result of standard cyclical movements, and not a harbinger of major climate change.”

      Read the full article

  47. Tonight,, we had Al Gore back on TV in Australia. One thing is clear the average questioner does not have enough scientific knowledge to challenge Gore’s views on climate, so he bis able to get away with his extreme views.

    • Once you recognize a huckster who is trying to sell a bill of goods, you don’t need a PhD in climate science to know you’re being conned.

  48. “Glacier Bay was first surveyed in detail in 1794 by a team from the H.M.S. Discovery, captained by George Vancouver. At the time the survey produced showed a mere indentation in the shoreline. That massive glacier was more than 4,000 feet thick in places, up to 20 miles wide, and extended more than 100 miles to the St. Elias mountain range.

    “By 1879, however, naturalist John Muir discovered that the ice had retreated more than 30 miles forming an actual bay. By 1916, the Grand Pacific Glacier – the main glacier credited with carving the bay – had melted back 60 miles to the head of what is now Tarr Inlet. ”

    All of that glacier shrinkage happened before mankind’s emissions could have had any effect.

  49. I saw a report on BBC news a couple of years ago regarding a “new island” that had appeared on the east coast of Greenland, due to global warming.

    The island was not actually new, but had been ‘discovered’ when the surrounding ice had melted away – previously it was thought to be a headland rather than an island.

    Also discovered at the same time was a jetty and some buildings on the mainland opposite the island. This was a previously unknown whaling station, and was assumed to be from some time in the early 20th century.

    Despite all the obvious evidence that the ice cover to the area was recent (i.e. since the early 20th century), the reporter was quite happy to believe that ‘global warming’ has uncovered this previously unknown island that had never before been seen.

    What can you do with such closed minds?

  50. Retrograde Orbit

    Statements like “Climate change is not science; it’s a political religion” show ideological hostility against climate science maybe against science in general. The creationists have the same kind of ideological hostility against the theory of evolution (for obvious reasons I won’t dive into that).
    Skepticism is one thing, ideological hostility is a different thing.
    Ideological hostility actually tends to cloud peoples minds preventing them from truly being able to be “skeptical”.

    • Yawn.

      The debate has moved a long way beyond this trivia. Are you saying that Dr Curry is “against science”?

      Grow up.

    • Climate change is sloppy science. There.

    • Retrograde Orbit,

      If the AGW movement acknowledges it’s hefty quasi-religious aspects, then they are entitled to the same kinds of considerations (pro and con) as other religious entities.

      Their problem is, they claim to be conducting science, which they expect others to accept as science, when actually it’s just cover for their religious agenda.


      • I wish the AGW people would shut up about creationism. It’s so transparent that they want to equate the science of evolution with climate science. I have posted on this before.

        One is a mature scientific theory which has stood the test of time, and has been validated by tens, if not hundreds of thousands of scientists from many different branches of science. No evidence has been presented which contradicts it.

        The other is a very young science, with very few practitioners, nearly all of whom got into their business with an agenda to save the earth. Not to mention they are reviewing each others work too. Climate science is highly dependent on modeling, with precious little observational data to back it up, and the practitioners, with very few exceptions, do not stop at their scientific work, but follow that up with policy advocacy. All of that advocacy is focused on one and only one political agenda, with no accounting for the potential costs of the actions they advocate.

        Please, please, leave creationism out of this. It’s such a transparent and vacuous argument that it isn’t really an argument at all – just trolling.

  51. tonite thriller was
    abt a glacier
    that grew so big
    that 1st it
    up a mountain
    side then
    a church
    and all its
    nxt a whole
    village houses
    fences even
    cows in barns.

    the hunger of this
    glacier is legendary
    it has taken in many victims
    back off frm this glacier
    it has drawn in yr feet
    it has drawn in yr legs
    theis glacier has yr eyes
    thi glacier has his head
    this poem has his …

    ( apologies to ishmael reed.)

    • Beth

      Like your “hungry glacier” poem.

      It is generally known, based on actual physical evidence recovered under receding glaciers today, that alpine glaciers were much smaller during the Middle Ages than they are today, and that they expanded during the Little Ice Age to reach their maximum extent of several thousand years around 1850 – about the time that modern measurements of glacial change started. (Patzelt, Schlüchter)

      There are many old records of “hungry glaciers” swallowing up alpine villages, high pastures and even medieval gold and silver mines as they advanced, during the early 17thC.

      Here is one from Austria (translated from German)

      “This legend covers the region near Bockart. The Bockart Lake covers immense buried riches in gold and silver. In place of the lake there was once a rich high valley; gold and silver could be seen in every boulder crack. But this blessing brought the self-destruction of the people; they could no longer control their wantonness; especially the miners reveled and feasted. They threw silver platters at targets and drank wine out of golden cups, mistreated the poor and blasphemed God incessantly.

      Then the punishment of the Lord came. From one day to another the green landscape disappeared under snow and ice, which flowed down into the valley. In the bottom of the valley a lake formed from the melting snow, which swallowed up everything causing the rich deposits of Gold to be lost in its depth.”

      So ya gotta watch that “reveling” and “wantonness” if (like me) you live anywhere near a glacier.

      Yer feller serf (lookin’ out the window at a hungry lookin’ glacier).

      • Interesting LIA history Max Definitely the LIA was not
        a good time fer serfs. I read in Geoffrey Blainey’s
        ‘Short History of the World’ how processions of
        villagers in the European Alps , threatened by the
        advancing glaciers, singing hymns and led by a
        priest or even a bishop, would journey to the edge
        of the glacier and pray that it would halt. See me
        SU ‘Edishun on ‘Food and Famine.’

        Don’t try it Max, jest sell up and move to a waterfront
        property further south.

        Beth the serf.

    • News from Alaska: The treeline used to be further north than it is today.

      “The Mendenhall Glacier’s recession is unveiling the remains of ancient forests that have remained frozen beneath the ice for up to 2,350 years.

      “UAS Professor of Geology and Environmental Science Program Coordinator Cathy Connor said she and others have been tracking the emergence of the forests’ remains. Some stumps and logs can be found in the moraines around the west side of the glacier. Some remain vertical, frozen to the ground in ice caves. Some are scoured smooth; some still have their bark. All are packed with silt in the outer layers.

      “…….The most recent stumps she’s dated emerging from the Mendenhall are between 1,400 and 1,200 years old. The oldest she’s tested are around 2,350 years old. She’s also dated some at around 1,870 to 2,000 years old.”

      • Some Alaskan glaciers are advancing, not receding….

        “Taku Glacier, located south of Juneau, is currently triggering this same process as it advances over a modern forest of cottonwood trees, offering the researchers a chance to observe the process in real time, Connor said.”

      • Don B

        Your info regarding earlier higher treeline in Alaska as evidenced by remains of ancient trees under receding glaciers today is pretty much the same as was found by independent studies in the Swiss and Austrian Alps (Schlüchtert, Patzelt).

        These studies found several time periods in the past when glaciers were smaller than today.

        The time periods also seem to agree well with those of the Alaskan study, so it appears that these were not “regional phenomena”.

        They found that around 1850, when modern measurements started, glaciers had reached the all-time maximum extent of several thousand years.

        Maybe, before he gets all panicky about the current shrinking trend, the “acclaimed (and ‘likeable’) environmental photographer”, James Balog, ought to check out past trends.


      • Correction: That’s Schlüchter (without a “t”)

  52. Two pieces from the write up
    In the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate.
    Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet.

    I have been thinking about this since this thread began, and have not seen this specific aspect mentioned. So Balog first visited the Arctic in 2005, some 8 years ago. In those 8 years, he has noticed, as we all have, significant changes in the ice conditions in this part of the world. There are signs that over this very short time period, temperatures have risen, and ice amounts decreased. So it is understandable that Balog should conclude that warming has occurred.

    But by what leap of faith does he conclude that this change MUST have been caused by increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere? What expertise and knowledge does he have that makes him come to this conclusion? 8 short years, and he seems certain that it is undeniable that the change he has observed is due to an increase in greenhouse gases. I find this scenario to be highly improbably.

    I suggest it is far more likely he as simply been brainwashed by the utterances of eminent scientists, from the Royal Society, The American Society, etc. etc. Scientists who ought to know better. I find it impossible to believe that Balog arrived at this conclusion using the information he had acquired by himself.

    The nonsense, hoax, of CAGW is being kept alive by irresponsible, senior scientists, spouting scientific nonsense. And there is no sign that this travesty being inflicted on science, physics, is likely to disappear in the near future.

    • Jim Cripwell


      Good summary

      • Aiyee – a Balog!

        A demon of the ancient world.

        Steve Mosher – take your meds please

        You know there are very few stupid people here, and Jim Cripwell isn’t one of them. I am an extremely loose cannon, and I don’t call people stupid, not even FOMTrolling.

    • Jim Cripwell’s observation is right, “The nonsense, hoax, of CAGW is being kept alive by irresponsible, senior scientists, spouting scientific nonsense. And there is no sign that this travesty being inflicted on science, physics, is likely to disappear in the near future.”

      The obvious conclusion, that none of us want to admit: George Orwell’s ability to predict the future has been confirmed !

    • Steven Mosher

      “I find it impossible to believe that Balog arrived at this conclusion using the information he had acquired by himself.”

      What does your inability anything to do with physics?

      perhaps you find it impossible to believe because youre stupid

    • I take some nice glitzy pics of glaciers calving.

      Then – eureka! – I conclude that ice must be shrinking as a result of human-induced global warming caused by human CO2 emissions.

      That’s not science.

      That’s an epiphany.

  53. What makes ice grow and melt??
    We have ice on top of Everest and Kilimanjaro but none at the depths of the sea furtherest away from the sun.
    So air pressure is important,air,sea and land temperature is important. [Ice extent is a bit like the tree line level as a measure of if global warming is occurring].
    Now if one could measure the average air pressure over Greenland times times the average temperature air and land surface yearly we could get an idea of how much ice should have melted over the year and compare it to what has actually happened.
    The problem lies in the measurement of the amount of ice on Greenland.
    “Our instruments for the the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) and its surroundings have experienced record high surface temperatures, ice sheet melt extent and record-low summer sea-ice extent. Using three independent datasets,we derive, for the first time [really??] , consistent ice-mass trends and temporal variations within seven major drainage basins from gravity fields from GRACE, InSAR and surface-elevation changes from the ICESat.”

    Note the omission of the words “together with output of the regional atmospheric climate modelling”
    We don’t want output from climate modelling included
    We want input from real climate data.
    Nobody knows if the GRIS or Antarctic ice sheet masses are getting larger or smaller as the interpretations of gravity fields are model derived and the tweaking of a micro-unit in measurement can cause the estimation to vary from growth to melting by millions of tonnes.
    Local observational data eg sonar and altimetry and radar to assess volumes would be more accurate but extremely hard to do.PIOMASS for sea ice volume estimation suffers from the same problems of limited data input with massively complex algorithms [The plastic Mann as I call him to differentiate from Michael]

  54. Bengt Abelsson

    Doing the numbers: Greenland area 2.1 10^6 km2 80% ice cover, 1500 m thick in average- That is 2.5 Million Gton. Simplified to 1 km3 = 1 Gton
    200 Gton is 0,008 % of that mass.
    Annual snowfall: From the Lost Squadron, we know at that particular spot, the ice increace since 1942 – 1990 was 1,5 m/year ( Planes was found 75 m below surface)
    Assume that yearly precipitation is 100 mm / year over the entire surface.
    That is 168000 Gton. Yes, Greenland is Big!
    Inflow = 168.000Gton. Outflow is 168.200 Gton.
    Anybody worried?

    • Bengt Abelsson

      Greenland snowfall was studied over a 10+ year period (1992-2003) by Johannessen et al.
      Johannessen, O. M., K. Khvorostovsky, M.W. Miles, and L.P. Bobylev (2005), Recent ice-sheet growth in the interior of Greenland, Science, 310, 1013-1016.

      A continuous data set of Greenland Ice Sheet altimeter height from European Remote Sensing satellites (ERS-1 and ERS-2), 1992 to 2003, has been analyzed. An increase of 6.4 +/- 0.2 centimeters per year (cm/year) is found in the vast interior areas above 1500 meters, in contrast to previous reports of high-elevation balance. Below 1500 meters, the elevation-change rate is -2.0 +/- 0.9 cm/year, in qualitative agreement with reported thinning in the ice-sheet margins. Averaged over the study area, the increase is 5.4 +/- 0.2 cm/year, or approximately 60 cm over 11 years, or approximately 54 cm when corrected for isostatic uplift. Winter elevation changes are shown to be linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation.


      • I hope Bart R. reads this with his eyes closed. I have faith he will.

      • Max, What about Antartica? NASA mentions they are puzzled about increasing sea ice but in the same breath say that Antartica is losing ice overall. Seems somewhat doubtful to me but how robust is that statement?

      • M. Hastings

        You ask how “robust” the NASA statement is that the Antarctic ice sheet is losing mass.

        Not “robust” at all.

        It is based on the same recent doubtful GRACE data.

        A more comprehensive study was made by Wigham et al. in 2005, covering the 24/7 satellite altimetry data from April 1992 to April 2003 plus estimates from other sources for the marginal coastal and polar regions, which satellites could not capture.

        Wingham’s conclusion was that the total AIS gained 27 Gt/year mass over this period.


        PS IPCC chose to ignore this study in its AR4 report, using cobbled-together spot data from various other partial studies to claim a net mass loss of 71 Gt/year over the same period!

      • Max, thanks much!

      • That’d be Wingham.

        Mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet
        BY D. J. WINGHAM1,*, A. SHEPHERD2
        , A. MUIR1 AND G. J. MARSHALL3

        1 Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, University College London,
        Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
        2 Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1ER, UK
        3 British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge
        CB3 0ET, UK

        We show that 72% of the Antarctic ice sheet is gaining 27G29 Gt yrK1, a sink of ocean mass sufficient to lower global sea levels by 0.08 mm yrK1. The IPCC third assessment (Church & Gregory 2001) partially offset an ongoing sea-level rise due to Antarctic retreat since the last glacial maximum (0.0–0.5 mm yrK1) with a twentieth century fall due to increased snowfall (K0.2–0.0 mm yrK1). But that assessment relied solely on models that neither captured ice streams nor the Peninsula warming, and the data show both have dominated at least the late twentieth century ice sheet. Even allowing a G30 Gt yrK1 fluctuation in unsurveyed areas, they provide a range of K35–C115 Gt yrK1. This range equates to a sea level contribution of K0.3–C0.1 mm yrK1 and so Antarctica has provided, at most, a negligible component of observed sea-level rise. In consequence, the data places a further burden on accounting (Munk 2003) for the twentieth century rise of 1.5–2 mm yrK1. What is clear, from the data, is that fluctuations in some coastal regions reflect long-term losses of ice mass, whereas fluctuations elsewhere appear to be short-term changes in snowfall. While the latter are bound to fluctuate about the long-term MAR, the former are not, and so the contribution of retreating glaciers will govern the twenty-first century mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet.

        That’s from the same people who later reversed their findings of +27 Gtons/year to -125 Gtons/year and more than tripled the Antarctic contribution to SLR:

        After a century of polar exploration, the past decade of satellite measurements has painted an altogether new picture of how Earth’s ice sheets are changing. As global temperatures have risen, so have rates of snowfall, ice melting, and glacier flow. Although the balance between these opposing processes has varied considerably on a regional scale, data show that Antarctica and Greenland are each losing mass overall. Our best estimate of their combined imbalance is about 125 gigatons per year of ice, enough to raise sea level by 0.35 millimeters per year. This is only a modest contribution to the present rate of sea-level rise of 3.0 millimeters per year. However, much of the loss from Antarctica and Greenland is the result of the flow of ice to the ocean from ice streams and glaciers, which has accelerated over the past decade. In both continents, there are suspected triggers for the accelerated ice discharge—surface and ocean warming, respectively—and, over the course of the 21st century, these processes could rapidly counteract the snowfall gains predicted by present coupled climate models.

        Do try to keep up.

      • Bart R

        Let’s beat this dead horse a bit longer…

        The later Zwally et al. study you cite states:

        Over the ice sheets, bedrock motion from glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) causes a large gravity signal in addition to changes in ice mass. In Antarctica, the gravity signal from GIA is larger than over Greenland and a major uncertainty in interpreting GRACE data alone. The comparison of ICESat and GRACE results, which are affected by bedrock motion in different ways, is helping to verify models of bedrock motion and the GIA signal. Generally, Greenland continues to grow inland and thin at the margins, as it was in the 1990’s. However, the thinning at the margins of Greenland has increased significantly since the 1990’s and Greenland is now losing mass. In Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula and West Antarctica are losing mass and East Antarctica is gaining mass, by amounts similar to those of the 1990’s.

        Note the “major uncertainty in interpreting GRACE data alone”.

        The studies I cited covered the period from April 1992 to April 2003. They showed that both ice sheets gained mass over this period.

        More recent data (mostly from GRACE) seem to show a reversal of this trend, but there is still “major uncertainty in interpreting GRACE data” (as I noted earlier).

        So it is (as I wrote earlier):

        We have long-term studies using continuous ESA satellite altimetry, which show that both Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets gained mass over the period 1992 to 2003.

        We have later data, mostly from GRACE, which indicate a reversal of this trend since 2003/2004, i.e. “Greenland is now losing mass” and parts of Antarctica are gaining while other parts are losing mass, but there is still “major uncertainty in interpreting the GRACE data”.

        Once we can make sure that the GRACE methodology has been de-bugged so this uncertainty is cleared up, and we have several years of more certain data, we can say with better certainty whether or not the past observed mass gain of both ice sheets has reversed itself, as the GRACE data would suggest.

        That’s about as accurate a summary as can be given.


        PS Don’t fall into the silly trap of accusing others of “cherry-picking sources in an obviously intentional effort to mislead” – it assumes intent where there is no evidence of this assumption and could backfire on you.

      • manacker | October 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm |

        You’re still just plain wrong. The major uncertainty in GRACE is significantly smaller than the uncertainty in the methods used prior to GRACE. Calling GRACE buggy while holding apparently absolute certainty about much less reliable figures is clearly irrational. Heck, compared to the reliability of the UAH satellites, GRACE may be downright as sure as scripture.

        Here’s the uncertainty from GRACE:

        –142 ± 49
        +14 ± 43
        –65 ± 26
        –20 ± 14

        Now, 49/142 is pretty major; so is 26/65, and 14/20 is huge uncertainty. They add up to 89/227, or almost 40% uncertainty in Antarctic ice loss outside the Eastern Antarctic.

        Eastern Antarctic mass gain uncertainty, at 43/14, however, is over 300%, with significant (10%) likelihood of being actually negative in any one of those years.

        So a total Antarctic mass change of -213 ± 132 Gt/year under GRACE does have major uncertainty, though it is certainly not positive as you imply.

        And the sum of the uncertainty in terms of SLR: “Since 1992, the polar ice sheets have contributed, on average, 0.59 ± 0.20 millimeter year−1.”

        Surely you know GRACE isn’t collecting data after 2016 at the latest, right?

        Plans for GRACE FO ( in 2017 and data since 2009 from the European satellite program will and already have allowed improving the overall picture.

        You’re clearly holding onto old opinion based on pre-2009 information, and reading with a bias.

    • Bengt Abelsson | October 23, 2013 at 9:22 am |

      Kinda handwavy, there, on the inflow/outflow assumptions.

      For the outflow, are you including all species, or just loss to sea ice? indicates evapotranspiration is high in Greenland.

      Greenland is losing ice far more rapidly than just by its rate of sea ice calving.

      • Bengt Abelsson

        Well – inflow is in the range 100,000 to 200,000 Gton/year.
        Mass loss is estimated to 200 Gton/year or 0.2 % of inflow.
        Outflow is inflow +/- mass change.
        Not a cause for worry, for me.
        It will take some 800 years to loose 1% of the total ice mass., at 200 Gton/year.

      • Bart R

        Johannessen considered ALL in + out in his estimate that the GRL ice sheet was gaining mass.

        Check it out.

        And then check out Zwally et al., who converted Johannessen’s altitude change to a mass balance, concluding that the GIS had gained mass from 1992 to 2003.

        It’s all there, Bart.

        All you have to do is check it out.


      • manacker | October 24, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

        Try to keep up. 1992-2002 is over. We have data since then.

        In-out estimation is notoriously exceedingly imprecise, and pretending otherwise is wishful thinking.

        However, if it were accurate, and the GRACE measurements more accurate still, then you’re looking at acceleration of Greenland ice loss of almost 200 GTon/decade.

        But these short term trends are, of course, not the whole story. We’re pretty sure ice melts more the hotter it gets, and we’re pretty sure air holds moisture better the warmer it gets, leading to less precipitation and more evapotranspiration, as a general trend. We’re even pretty sure as large glacial blocks fragment and expose more surface area above and below to warmer air and water they accelerate their melting and their rate of motion toward the sea.

        You’re grasping at straws in the Pollyanna hopes that Greenland will somehow maybe possibly defy Physics by magic forever, and denying that the greater probability is of greater harm.

        Do you use this sort of logic when you drive?

      • Bart R

        The only long term mass balance studies made for the Greenland ice sheet were those made by Johannessen et al., which used 24/7 ESA satellite altimetry data from 1992 to 2003; this showed a gain in altitude over the entire study area, principally resulting from the large snowfall in the interior, which had previously not been measured.

        Zwally et al. used the Johannessen et al. data plus some other spot results for marginal areas which the satellites could not capture (truncating one winter season October 2002-April 2003) to arrive at a net positive mass balance of 11 Gt/year over the period (adding in Johannessen’s figures for October 2002 to April 2003 would make this 23 Gt/year).

        This is the last comprehensive long-term study that has been made. It indicates that the GIS gained between 120 and 250 Gt over the time period measured.

        Since then we have GRACE data, but these are still suspect, as the bugs in the system have still not been worked out.

        Once GRACE debugs its system and we have a long-term record, we’ll know whether or not the trend of slight net mass increase in the GIS, which was observed from 1992 to 2003 has really reversed itself (as IPCC AR5 claims) or not.

        Hope this helps you understand what’s really going on.


      • manacker | October 26, 2013 at 8:19 am |

        Zwally, whose earlier works you refer to, prefers GRACE to the in-out method.

        Sheperd’s more recent, and widely accepted, and you’d think Zwally would object if there were reasons to question this improvement of Zwally’s own techniques:

        Between 1992 and 2011, the ice sheets of Greenland, East Antarctica, West Antarctica, and the Antarctic Peninsula changed in mass by –142 ± 49, +14 ± 43, –65 ± 26, and –20 ± 14 gigatonnes year−1, respectively. Since 1992, the polar ice sheets have contributed, on average, 0.59 ± 0.20 millimeter year−1 to the rate of global sea-level rise.

        Johannessen doesn’t support your interpretation of his data.

        Zwally doesn’t support your use of his earlier work over his own later work.

        All serious work since converges to the view that only East Antarctica has even slight gain, with net Antarctic loss likely in the range of -71 Gt/year, or a third of the almost 0.6 mm/year sea level rise from Greenland and Antarctica in total.

        And we have good cause to know this rate to be increasing.

        You’ve cherry-picked your sources in an obviously intentional effort to mislead.

    • Bengt Abelsson | October 24, 2013 at 6:56 am |

      So, you’ve made the assumption of equipartition why?

      Do you have any reason to use a linear trend line for this complex question?

      Certainly that’s not the way ice melts normally.

      Perhaps you have an ice sheet melt computer model you’re using? suggests your numbers and assumptions are wildly wrong.

      From a small net gaining trend in 1992 to over 300 Gton loss by 2012 using a linear assumption on the acceleration of ice mass loss in Greenland we could expect total loss over 700 Gton/year by the early 2030’s, over a thousand Gton/year by 2050, and I’m sure you understand how rapidly such trends grow even at the conservative linear best fit, and your 800 years become 80 at that rate, then eight just a half century later, then eight months a half century after that, then eight weeks a few years later, then eight days to lose 1% of the Greenland Ice sheet within two centuries.

      If Hansen et al or Shepherd et al are right, it’s nothing like certain to be so slow. (I agree with Shepherd’s reasoning, that Hansen & Sato is likely too rapid an acceleration due probable negative feedbacks, but also that mere linear acceleration is too slow. Both cases are much, much more probable than your linear flat rate of ice loss model.)

      How do you justify such certainty in your wildly handwaved and baseless guesses? And why should anyone else stake anything important on such approaches by strangers on the Internet?

      • Bengt Abelsson

        From Hansen / Sato:
        “Is there evidence that they may be exponential? It’s too early to tell, as shown by Fig. 1 above. The picture may begin to be clearer within the next several years.”
        Just doing the numbers: 200 Gton/year is but a small fraction of flow, and total mass of the Greenland ice cap is still 2,5 millon Gton. It will take some time to melt. Not scary enouhg to commit economic hara-kiri.

      • Bengt Abelsson | October 25, 2013 at 6:40 am |

        Economic hara-kiri?

        That’s two consecutive sets of unfounded assumptions you rely on to rescue your dubious argument.

        First, you must assume a flat rate of 200 Gton/year with no acceleration, although ice melt experiments, ice melt simulations, our thermomechanical understanding of how ice melts, and the record of observations provide better evidence for an accelerating or exponential trend, resulting in your 1%/800 years becoming 1%/8 days in just 200 years.

        Next, you must assume addressing AGW is so economically expensive as to be suicidally disastrous. Not even Tol’s absurd claims back such an extremely unlikely view, and he’s skewed his calculations using every invalid contortion imaginable. The cost of solar is expected to fall by 2020 to just 25% of the 2010 cost. We’re effectively six years away from 2020, and it takes about six years to be shovel ready for electricity generation from inception; anyone making plans for stationary generation of electricity that don’t rely mainly on the by far cheapest solar option is simply being economically irresponsible.

        Look, I don’t care if sea levels rise, really. I couldn’t care less about glaciers in Greenland. If you want to pay more for electricity because you’re so gullible you believe coal lobby salesmen, that’s hardly my concern. But people who make up lame crap to justify bad judgment just leave my nose hairs twitching.

      • Bart R

        our thermomechanical understanding of how ice melts, and the record of observations provide better evidence for an accelerating or exponential trend, resulting in your 1%/800 years becoming 1%/8 days in just 200 years.

        “1% mass loss in 8 days?”

        Where did you dredge this up from, Bart?

        Your “thermomechanical understanding of how ice melts” just made my BS meter go off the chart.


      • Bart R:

        “The cost of solar is expected to fall by 2020 to just 25% of the 2010 cost. We’re effectively six years away from 2020, and it takes about six years to be shovel ready for electricity generation…”

        I hope you’re right. That would be a vast improvement in quality of lives. People are betting, picking what kind of electricity generation they think will work, and investing 100s of millions of dollars. It looks to me that natural gas plants are being favored.

      • Bengt Abelsson

        Not even Hansen / Sato belives in exponential increase in melting – Hansen, hardly a coservative personality, cannot find evidence for that.
        So, let´s wait and see. The non-warming for the last say 16 years are showing, to me, that IPCC models are off target.
        Where I live, in middle Sweden, the electricity max is in mid January, so solar is not an option here.
        I´m not opposed to solar energy per se, but it should stand on its own merits, not by an unfounded CO2 scare.
        ( Answer to Bart R 12:39)

      • manacker | October 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm |

        You know why they don’t mount noise meters on jet engines or smoke detectors inside fireplaces, right?

        Did you somehow miss:

        Bart R | October 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm |

        .. suggests your numbers and assumptions are wildly wrong.

        From a small net gaining trend in 1992 to over 300 Gton loss by 2012 using a linear assumption on the acceleration of ice mass loss in Greenland we could expect total loss over 700 Gton/year by the early 2030′s, over a thousand Gton/year by 2050, and I’m sure you understand how rapidly such trends grow even at the conservative linear best fit, and your 800 years become 80 at that rate, then eight just a half century later, then eight months a half century after that, then eight weeks a few years later, then eight days to lose 1% of the Greenland Ice sheet within two centuries.

        See, Bengt went with an unjustified linear assumption on rate, I went with a source-supported linear assumption on acceleration.

        Why do you prefer his assumption that doesn’t match the data over my assumption that does match the data?

        See, I don’t rely on either projection being right, I need only note the plausibility of the Risk increasing, which is by far the more probable path.

        You need to stop panicking every time you see something that makes you uncomfortable.

        Also, Bengt needs to understand that high winter electricity demand is not necessarily sufficient reason to discount solar as part of solutions. He wants to pay more for all his electricity just because some of it is during the winter, he can invest in wind (also due to drop in price), in pumped hydro storage if there’s a mountain sitting unused near him, smartgrids, and high voltage DC to get cheap electricity from farther away than his national borders.

      • Bart R

        You tell me why you ASS-U-ME an exponential rather than a linear rate of net mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet.

        Bart, you can ASS-U-ME anything you want to. It’s a free world.

        Just don’t expect others to believe it.

        Have you ever considered that the net mass balance of an ice sheet depends on many factors, but the most important two are mass loss at the edges due to melting/ablation and mass gain in the vast interior due to snowfall.

        And, Bart, you have no earthly notion how these two things alone are going to develop over the next 200 years.

        So all you can do is ASS-U-ME.


      • manacker | October 26, 2013 at 8:30 am |

        Funny guy. That is so ORI-GI-NAL.

        You’ve lied to us, used old studies that you must know have been updated by their own authors with opposite findings, presented immoral arguments and done nothing — so far as one can tell, in your whole life — valid or worthy of remark.

        The principles of science tell us all we need to know of how to approach your dire issue of uncertainty about the margins and interiors of ice sheets. We regard as accurately or very nearly true what observation and inference of AGW tell us.

        As ice sheets spread more widely and their mass decreases, and more fissures form more deeply in proportion to their height, the ratio of their surface area to their mass rises, and especially their exposure to water beneath (which is not just a margin by any means), and as sea level rises there is less land-based ice as a ratio of the total. All of these are accelerating factors, and they’re all being observed, and we understand well enough the mechanisms that cause ice to collapse under its own weight more the warmer it gets, to flow faster on meltwater channels than on bare ground, to sublimate more rapidly in warmer conditions, and while we don’t have a long record to go on for the precipitation balance, the signal is pretty clear that there’s no net Lindzen-style Antarctic snow iris negative feedback effect.

        We’re already locked into the better part of a century of increasing global temperatures. Acceleration of Antarctic ice mass loss and consequent sea level rise is an inevitability. That’s not a guess, not an assumption, not a belief, but cold inference from observation by ab initio inference.

        Go ahead, reply with some more lies, get some new series of statements completely wrong, cite something else that’s already been repudiated. It’s kinda entertaining. Like watching a car crash in slow motion.

      • As ice sheets spread more widely and their mass decreases

        I see you haven’t given up on your laughable popcorn theory then. It doesn’t sit well with your “more fissures” assertion though.

      • phatboy | October 26, 2013 at 1:06 pm |

        You might want to go back over and re-read; the popcorn mechanism got left out. Thanks for reminding me.

      • Right, Bart, perhaps you’d care to elucidate the rest of us about the maths behind your popcorn theory then?

      • phatboy | October 27, 2013 at 6:17 am |

        Funny; I’d considered asking you to provide the math of the popcorn hypothesis yourself, as you clearly are more strongly attached to it than am I.

        The ‘hypothesis’ is a corollary to the observation that sea level rise has a large component due the thermal expansion of sea water, that among the many influences forcing ice off the Antarctic continent, one is the thermal expansion of ice as it warms. This effect would be stronger in the Antarctic than Greenland due percentage of ice cover: expanding ice in parts of Greenland have actual land to expand onto.

        For a primer on thermal expansion, see

        Note the anomaly: water is most dense at 4 ℃ (ρ = 999.973 kg/m3), however this anomaly does not affect water ice, as ice is of course below 0 ℃. gives a slightly more advanced background and two useful figures:

        Coefficient of thermal expansion of ice: ~50 * 10^-6/degree

        Thermal conductivity of ice (near -20°C): ~2.4 W/mK

        For a handy table, shows at -40 ℃, ice is 0.9228 g/cm^3, and at -40 ℃, ice is 0.9203 g/cm^3.

        Mathematically, the slow penetration of warmth into ice will over the course of the 20 ℃ of warming we expect at the poles under a 5 ℃ global warming scenario result in 0.27% increase in the volume of the ice on the Antarctic. That’s 26.5 million cubic km of ice times 0.27%, or 72 thousand cubic km of ice now displacing water that formerly sat on land. It is a really small part of the overall contribution, less than the part flowing off the continent due the weakening of the ice with temperature causing it to flatten, less than the increase in fissures and cracks, less than the floes due increase in water beneath the ice, less than sublimation of ice to air, but the popcorn effect in itself is enough to add 20 cm of depth to sea level rise globally, in the long run on balance about 4 cm per degree of global warming. And this effect, too, accelerates as temperature rises.

        Moreover, as you note from the last table cited, once you get above 40 ℃, the phenomenon of sub-zero liquid water becomes a growing issue. As more of the Antarctic ice sheet rises above that tipping point, more of it goes from having a solid to a fluid base, and that collapse will be rapid and dramatic.

      • Bart, as I suspected, you’re not taking into account the fact that ice, like any solid, expands in three dimensions, ie it gets thicker as well.
        And any lateral expansion will probably be more-or-less completely absorbed up by the myriad fissures in the ice, meaning very little, if any, will actually spill over into the sea.
        And, in any case, how long will it take for that 20C to diffuse down through the nearly 2Km ice thickness?

      • phatboy | October 27, 2013 at 7:05 pm |

        Didn’t we cover all these points last time?

        Firstly, as ice warms, it becomes less, not more, thick due reduction in structural strength. See where I said, “less than the part flowing off the continent due the weakening of the ice with temperature causing it to flatten,” Now, you can do the double integral required to generate the result of the ice becoming thinner while less dense to get a more precise answer than the rough approximation generated by ceteris parebus calculation, if you like, or you can do the geometry to calculate the actual size of the shell around the edges of the continent on your no-flattening calculation, then do the flattening calculation, but partial differential equations of multiple variables seemed a bit beyond your ambit, so I omitted them in favor if something simple enough for you to follow. But sure, at the thin edge of the wedge in the beginning of the trend, your point has some influence tending to reduce the popcorn effect at first. In the long run as we approach the limit of infinite temperature rise, ice remaining would become more and more infinitessimal, so the method, and the claim of acceleration over time (as less and less of the ice is on the continent as a ratio of the total), is justified.

        Secondly, are the fissures in popcorn smaller after the kernel pops, or larger, would you say? Do sponges get smaller as they absorb more water? Balloons shrink as they are filled with more air? Your assumption about the topology of fissures sounds suspiciously like you’re making something up counter to the experience of normal people about normal phenomena to manufacture a win in your mind. Generally, the more stresses and heat on ice the more it fractures.

        Thirdly, “Thermal conductivity of ice (near -20°C): ~2.4 W/mK” was provided for your convenience. You’ll also want to do the calculus of the progression of heat into the Antarctic ice as the ice thins and vanishes, and recall that tipping point that happens when ice under sufficient pressure liquifies as low as forty below zero, factor for that.

        Or, we can accept that over the long run, it’s bad enough that the Antarctic is on course to warm by 20°C because of human activity, and whether the popcorn is 2 cm of sea level rise or 20 cm, the whole thing where the Antarctic will largely melt and the sea will rise more than ten times as much due to that melting and other effects than the popcorn effect.

      • Bart, Bart, Bart, what on earth did they teach you at school?
        The ice cannot expand laterally, as each unit section of ice is competing for space with the quadrillions of other unit sections of ice surrounding it, each applying as much inward pressure on it as it’s applying to them.
        So what does it do? It takes the line of least resistance and expands upwards. It does this by fracturing and liquefying due to the increased stresses and pressures. But as soon as its fractured and liquefied enough to move and so ease the stress and pressure, it re-freezes.
        It does not, as you seem to think, simply liquefy and run off, because, as soon as the pressure is reduced by the action of the water starting to move, it promptly re-freezes.
        The only place where expansion will result in significant lateral movement is right at the edges of the ice – and that includes crevasses.
        Oh, and higher temperature ice is less dense, meaning less mass pressing down on each square mere, so it doesn’t have to be as structurally strong anyway – not that structural strength means much.
        BTW thanks for saving me from partial differential equations of multiple variables, but I didn’t use them simply because I didn’t have to.

      • phatboy | October 28, 2013 at 9:12 am |

        Your line of least resistance is against the gravity of far, far more ‘quadrillions of unit sections’ (yeesh) of Earth than lateral expansion faces from the friction holding fluidized ice. Remind me, what’s the coefficient of friction of fluid ice?

        Are these edges you speculatively suggest more, or less, than the 2 km’s the ice is thick?


        Then your hypothesis of upward only expansion is patently false on its own premise.


        Then that’s still a more than 2 km wide band the circumference of the Antarctic popcorning. Sure, in any day or year or decade, it’s not much, but climate isn’t a matter of days or years or single decades, rather of multiple decades. Your objection is one that makes acceleration of ice mass loss to the sea a more likely outcome, by providing a mechanism for the popcorn effect to be slower at first. In the limit as time of AGW increases, the popcorn effect either happens, or is overcome by the rate of extinction of ice due other causes.

        Though your whole breaking conservation of mass argument, “..higher temperature ice is less dense, meaning less mass pressing down on each square mere, so it doesn’t have to be as structurally strong anyway – not that structural strength means much.”

        Either the ice stays put, as you suggest, and the mass of the whole remains the same while the structure weakens, or the mass on the spot decreases while the structure weakens. If the mass of the ice is magically reduced, where does it go?

        Are you suggesting the ice at the south pole is expanding so rapidly it leaves the surface and flies up outside the pull of Earth’s gravity?

        Truly, the contortions you go through to deny the most plausible explanations and mechanisms are breathtaking. So much so, were there a prize for it, you might well be a candidate for denier of the hour.

      • You know Bart, I didn’t think your arguments could become more ridiculous – but you’ve just proved me wrong on that score.
        Are you seriously suggesting that:

        a) it requires more force to lift a max. 2000m column of ice than to laterally displace a thousand times that mass in all directions, when all the adjacent columns of ice are pushing back with the same force?

        b) the whole ice mass becomes ‘fluidised’ at the same time, due to a temperature increase taking place over many decades at least, and diffusing downwards from the top?

        How does a pile of sand manage to remain standing when, by your definition, it has no structural strength?

        What happens to a heap of grain when it gets wet and starts expanding? Does the heap get higher as well as wider, or does it only get wider because it flattens out under its increased weight?

        If the mass of the ice is magically reduced, where does it go?

        That remark is hardly worthy of a reply. Don’t you know the relationship between density, volume and mass?

        I’m not going to respond to you in future until you start making sense.

      • phatboy | October 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm |

        Ah, but it isn’t just the mass of the 2km of ice that’s resisting its vertical ascent (there’d be calculus involved, as not all the ice is at the bottom of each column, of course, but I notice you don’t appear to have any handle on the concepts of calculus). The ice column itself, unlike air columns, is shackled by its material strength to its neighbors. Unless they too all rise, there will be 2 km of pressure resisting upward rise as much as lateral displacement is resisted for any 2 km stretch of unfractured ice.

        And who suggested the entire ice field must fluidize all at once?

        It need only fluidize in parts for friction to vanish and lateral expansion to proceed until the pressure finds relief and the ice again solidifies, creating new patterns of stress and pressure and new fractures across the continent, until little by little the lateral expansion pushes ice out over the sea.

        Also, you assume the entire transmission of heat into the ice is top down by thermal conductivity, when we know even in the Antarctic there are places where liquid water exists and flows through the ice, carrying heat down more rapidly than thermal conduction.

        It’s not that what objections you raise play entirely no part in the relatively weak and tiny popcorn effect. It’s entertaining to discuss this effect that approaches 40 mm of sea level rise for every degree of global warming over decades, as a mathematical and logical diversion. Considering the impacts of topology and fractures, material properties of ice and detailed conditions of the Antarctic for this small addition to the orders of magnitude larger effects from the information we can observe is an interesting exercise.

        However, we are rather at the end of what we can productively discuss, without some experiment to show which is likeliest to happen, given that you’ve already exceeded your ability to grasp why decreasing the density of a column of ice without removing any of it laterally will not result in a (significant) reduction of the column’s mass.

        Enjoy your unpopped corn.

      • Thanks Bart, I shall – unlike you, who having run out of sensible argument has no way out than to resort to gratuitous ad homs.

      • phatboy | October 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm |

        ..I’m not going to respond to you in future until you start making sense.

        phatboy | October 28, 2013 at 6:20 pm |

        Well, at least your posts are consistently wrong about the future. Though three and a half hours isn’t really far enough into the future to call climate.

      • have a nice life

  55. Judith, 7.4 cubic km ? Maybe just a typo?

  56. angech

    Nobody knows if the GRIS or Antarctic ice sheet masses are getting larger or smaller as the interpretations of gravity fields are model derived and the tweaking of a micro-unit in measurement can cause the estimation to vary from growth to melting by millions of tonnes.

    Agree that the GRACE stuff is highly doubtful. Even the researchers themselves have reservations regarding the ability of this method to give any meaningful estimates of changes in overall ice sheet mass.

    But we do have some pretty convincing long-term studies based on a more reliable method.

    Over the period 1992-2003 studies using 24/7 satellite altimetry measurements supplemented by other methods for marginal regions not covered by satellite altimetry (Greenland: Johannessen, Zwally, Antarctica: Wingham) showed that both the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets gained mass over this 10+ year period

    This did not keep IPCC from reporting net mass loss for both ice sheets in its AR4 report by cobbling together spot data from other reports and ignoring the results of the satellite altimetry studies.


    – The IPCC “consensus” story is that both ice sheets are losing mass
    – The long-term observations indicated that they both gained mass 1992-2003
    – Nobody knows if the ice sheet masses are getting larger or smaller today
    – IPCC publishes its “consensus” story anyway


  57. “With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.”

    And this year the Arctic was still “brutal” at the end of summer, only the young adventurers found themselves ‘in tow’ with the ice-breakers of the Canadian coast guard.

  58. Sorry for my English, I’m French-spoker and I do what I can … If you want to look at the history of the Arctic then read this article from NASA ( but look closer Fig.1 to the period 1917 -1937 (“cherry picking” as the authors of the article for the period 1981-2001) …then read some newspaper article from this time:
    1922 :
    1939 :|||anyWords|||notWords|||l-textSearchScope=*ignore*%7C*ignore*|||fromdd|||frommm|||fromyyyy=1921|||todd|||tomm|||toyyyy=1940|||l-word=*ignore*%7C*ignore*|||sortby

    and drawn your own conclusions:
    – No outstanding cast of the Arctic in recent years
    – Out of the Little Ice Age on the scale of the century
    – Nothing to do with CO2 and climate alarmism

    “The science is settled”, Mainstreams climatologists have spoken! let historians begin to work and talk!

  59. Vistodelperu

    I wrote on the very subject just a couple of months ago.

    The warming in the 1920 to 1940 period was far greater than the modern records show

    • Steven Mosher

      far greater? settled science?
      hmm no numbers. no uncertainty. no accounting for structural uncertainty.

      • Mosh

        Who said anything about settled science? Surely you don’t believe in that?

        Far greater? Certainly. The predecessors to CRU who constructed the sea ice data in the 1970’s did not have access to all the information we do today.

        BTW I don’t know if you saw yesterday but I asked if you could post a direct link to your global 1750 BEST data as we would like to graph it against CET

      • Mosh

        I see that you are referring to vistoldelperu comment on ‘settled science’ which I took to be ironic.

    • Tonyb
      Maybe some articles I linked in my previous post can serve you to complete your collection of data.
      I read your subject… Very interesting! I really enjoyed the extract (I know!!! I do “cherry picking”) from the 1939 article: “One scientist…theorises that an increase in carbon dioxide (due to the huge amounts of coal being used) may be responsible…while astronomers look to the sun for an explanation. Quite apart from any fluctuations in the sun’s actual output of radiative energy, it is possible that the warmth received from the sun may vary from time to time due to the earth passing through regions of space in which meteoric dust is unevenly distributed.”
      No doubt climatology has made ​​progress since … Mosh, It was ironic but as the Beatles sang “All we need is lol”…:)

  60. Sorry Tonyb, I have not had an opportunity to review all the post on this blog.
    But thanks you for the Link, I will read it with interest!

  61. Hi Steven Mosher
    Like I say, sorry for my English, I’m French-speaker and I do what I can …
    Perhaps the irony of the quote from Al Gore (“The science is settled”) has not been translated correctly…
    I parallels the text of one article alarmist from NASA (“the rate of warming in the Arctic from 1981 to 2001 is eight times larger than the rate of Arctic warming over the last 100 years.” Bla bla bla…) with his own fig1 (period 1917-1937) and a little historical research of newspaper article … I find that if someone wants me to believe that “The Science is Settled” then yes, historians have much job…
    I obviously do not think that “Science is Settled”…

    • I know Al Gore said,” I am convinced that the science is solid.”

      What do you know he said?

      • I saw among other things here …
        he can be said or maybe not … I don’t care but thank you for your great contribution!
        Maybe could you make now a comment on my original post October 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm or on the subject historic-variations-in-arctic by Tonyb?

  62. “the iceberg had a volume of 7.4 cubic km. Compare this with with the Aug 2010 iceberg from the Peterman Glacier in northwest Greenland, that was estimated to be 260 square km.” Is one of these a typo? I don’t know how to compare cubic km with square km.

  63. tony b

    Don’t know if you have seen this bit of historical research on northern ice (from a blog comment by Dr. Strangelove above).



  64. Balog should have been around back in the day. He would have done a lot of chasing in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. :)

    ….The record indicates that warmer temperatures were the norm in the earlier part of the past 4000 years, including century-long intervals nearly 1°C warmer than the present decade (2001–2010). Therefore, we conclude that the current decadal mean temperature in Greenland has not exceeded the envelope of natural variability over the past 4000 years, a period that seems to include part of the Holocene…..
    [Takuro Kobashi et. al.]
    An aerial view of 80 years of climate-related glacier fluctuations in southeast Greenland
    …………the recent retreat was matched in its vigour during a period of warming in the 1930s with comparable increases in air temperature. We show that many land-terminating glaciers underwent a more rapid retreat in the 1930s than in the 2000s,……
    [Anders A. Bjørk et. al.]
    “…the rate of warming in 1920–1930 was about 50% higher than that in 1995–2005….”
    [Petr Chylek et. al.]
    “…The annual whole ice sheet 1919–32 warming trend is 33% greater in magnitude than the 1994–2007 warming….”
    [Jason E. Box et. al.]
    “…The warmest year in the extended Greenland temperature record is 1941, while the 1930s and 1940s are the warmest decades….”
    [B. M. Vinther et. al.]
    The State of the West Greenland Current up to 1944
    “….It is found that warmer conditions existed during the decade of 1880, followed by a colder period up to about 1920, when the present warm period began. The peak of the present warm period appears to have been reached in the middle 1930’s,…..”
    [M. J. Dunbar]
    A period of warm winters in Western Greenland and the temperature see-saw between Western Greenland and Central Europe
    Particulars are given regarding the big rise of winter temperatures in Greenland and its more oceanic climate during the last fifteen years….
    Dr. F. Loewe

  65. Seeing is believing????

    Nature – 28 May 2012
    Rediscovered photos reveal Greenland’s glacier history
    Ice retreat was as drastic in the 1930s as it is today.
    Analysis of the images reveals that over the past decade, glacier retreat was as vigorous as in a similar period of warming in the 1930s. However, whereas glaciers that spill into the ocean retreated rapidly in the 2000s, it was land-terminating glaciers that underwent the fastest regression 80 years ago.