Another Study Debunks Alarmist Fears About Rapid Antarctic Ice Melt


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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Canadian scientists just published research downplaying concerns that Antarctica’s ice sheet is on the verge of “runaway retreat.” Instead, researchers found two countervailing forces overlooked by climate models.

A study by McGill University scientists found gravity and the fluid bedrock beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet will likely slow the South Pole’s glacial retreat. The South Pole’s “surprisingly powerful gravitational pull of the immense ice sheet on surrounding water, and the unusually fluid nature of the mantle beneath the bedrock” will slow the ice sheet’s retreat, according to researchers.

“The fate of the polar ice sheets in a warming world is a major concern for policy makers — and attention is rightly focused on the importance of restraining CO2 emissions and preparing for rising sea levels,” Natalya Gomez, an Earth sciences professor at McGill University, said in a statement.

“But our study shows that for Antarctica, in particular, computer models also need to take into account how gravitational effects and variations in Earth structure could affect the pace of future ice-sheet loss,” Gomez said.

For years, scientists have been warning that Antarctica’s ice sheet has been losing mass as warm waters carve glaciers from below. National Aeronautics and Space administration GRACE satellite data shows the South Pole “has been losing about 134 billion metric tons of ice per year since 2002.”

A recent study, however, have cast doubt on dire predictions of Antarctic ice melt. NASA scientist published findings earlier this month that Antarctica’s ice sheet actually increased in mass from 1992 to 2008 due to snowfall accumulation over thousands of years.

NASA’s study flew in the face of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that Antarctica has been losing ice on net due to increased anthropogenic warming. NASA’s work, on the other hand, showed the pole had gained ice mass despite less snowfall.

Some scientists were quick to criticize the study, calling into question the methodology used by its authors and criticizing it for getting different results than NASA’s GRACE satellite.

GRACE gives us the most direct measurement of mass changes that we have currently,” Christopher Harig, a geoscientist at Princeton University, told The Washington Post. “Arguing that because their results are different, they must be better, is unsustainable.”

Another recent study found Antarctica has seen increased snowfall in the last 30 years, but the study’s authors said the snowfall did nothing to stop the South Pole’s western ice sheet from collapsing.

We urgently need to understand whether we are losing ice, at what rate, and what is causing this loss in order to make accurate predictions for future change and Antarctica’s contribution to global sea-level rise,” Elizabeth Thomas, a British Antarctic Survey paleoclimatologist and the study’s lead author, said in a statement.

McGill University’s Antarctic study could be seen as another blow to alarmists who predict imminent glacial collapse in the region. The study’s authors predict that as the ice sheet melts, its reduced mass would lessen gravitational pull and lower sea levels near the ice — slowing the pace of collapse.

Scientists also mentioned what’s called an “elasticity effect.” When an ice sheet retreats, the Earth beneath it moves upwards and stems retreat even further. Despite these impacts, the study’s authors still warned about man-made global warming.

“The lower the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, the more the geophysical factors will be able to help stem the ice’s retreat,” Gomez said. “The greater the emissions, the more the geophysical forces risk being overwhelmed by the strength of warming.”

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