Climate scientists discover new weak point of the Antarctic ice sheet

May 09, 2012
Edge of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea, Photo: Ralph Timmermann, Alfred Wegener Institute

The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf fringing the Weddell Sea, Antarctica, may start to melt rapidly in this century and no longer act as a barrier for ice streams draining the Antarctic Ice Sheet. These predictions are made by climate researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association in the coming issue of the journal Nature. They refute the widespread assumption that ice shelves in the Weddell Sea would not be affected by the direct influences of global warming due to the peripheral location of the Sea.

The results of the climate modelers from the Alfred Wegener Institute will come as a surprise to the professional world with the majority of experts assuming that the consequences of global warming for Antarctica would be noticeable primarily in the and therefore in the western part of Antarctica. "The Weddell Sea was not really on the screen because we all thought that unlike the Amundsen Sea its warm waters would not be able to reach the shelves. But we found a mechanism which drives warm water towards the coast with an enormous impact on the Fichner-Ronne Ice Shelf in the coming decades", says Dr. Hartmut Hellmer, at the Alfred Wegener Institute and lead author of the study.

Using different , he and his colleagues Dr. Frank Kauker, Dr. Ralph Timmermann and Dr. Jürgen Determann as well as Dr. Jamie Rae from Met Office Hadley Centre, U.K., demonstrate that as a result of a chain reaction large ice masses could presumably slide into the ocean within the next six decades.

This chain reaction is triggered by rising air temperatures above the southeastern Weddell Sea. "Our models show that the warmer air will lead to the currently solid sea ice in the southern Weddell Sea becoming thinner and therefore more fragile and mobile in a few decades", says Frank Kauker. If this happens, fundamental transport processes will change. "This will mean that a hydrographic front in the southern Weddell Sea will disappear which has so far prevented from getting under the ice shelf. According to our calculations, this protective barrier will disintegrate by the end of this century", explains Hartmut Hellmer.

An inflow of warmer water beneath the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf will melt the ice from below. "We expect the greatest melting rates near the so-called grounding line, the zone in which the ice shelf settles on the sea floor at the transition to the glacier. At this point the Filchner-Ronne is melting today at a rate of around 5 metres per year. By the turn of the next century the melt rates will rise to up to 50 metres per year", says Hellmer's colleague Jürgen Determann.

How the ice streams behind will react in the event of a melt of such enormous proportions is currently being investigated by Jürgen Determann. One thing is obvious, however: " are like corks in the bottles for the ice behind them. They reduce the ice flow because they lodge in bays everywhere and rest on islands. If, however, the ice shelves melt from below, they become so thin that the dragging surfaces become smaller and the ice behind them starts to move", explains Hartmut Hellmer. "If the high melting rates are completely compensated by inland ice flow, this loss in mass would correspond to an additional rise in global sea level of 4.4 millimetres per year", adds Jürgen Determann. According to the latest estimates based on remote sensing data, global sea level rose for the period 2003-2010 at a rate of 1.5 millimetres per year due to melting of glaciers and ice shelves. This occurs in addition to the 1.7 millimetres per year due to thermal expansion of the oceans.

The forecasts of the current study are based on independent calculations of the ocean models BRIOS (Bremerhaven Regional Ice Ocean Simulations) and FESOM (Finite Element Sea Ice Ocean Model). The scientists used the atmospheric projections of the British Met Office Hadley Centre in Exeter as forcing data. These included, for example, information on the future development of the wind and of the temperature in Antarctica. Hartmut Hellmer and his colleagues have thoroughly checked the model results for being realistic: "We started the BRIOS model in 1860 to see whether its results also represent the current situation. We found that this condition was satisfied. For example, the water temperatures for the Weddell Sea predicted by BRIOS are close to those we have actually measured in the recent past", says Ralph Timmermann and adds: "The BRIOS model has been verified on many occasions in the past. It correctly predicts sea ice thickness, concentration, and drift as well as circulation patterns. And FESOM is well on the way to attaining BRIOS status. However, it has a far higher resolution, which is why we have to wait a long time until the computer has calculated several decades and more. BRIOS only needs less than a week for a century."

The study was conducted as part of the EU-funded research programme "Ice2sea". This project brings together scientists from 24 leading research institutions of the European Union and from Chile, Norway and Iceland. Together, the scientists aim for decoding the interactions between ice and climate and in this way facilitate more precise predictions about the effects of melting ice on level. More information on the Ice2sea project is available at: www.ice2sea.eu

Explore further: NASA balloons begin flying in Antarctica for 2014 campaign

More information: Hartmut H. Hellmer, Frank Kauker, Ralph Timmermann, Jürgen Determann, Jamie Rae: Twenty-first-century warming of a large Antarctic ice shelf cavity by a redirected coastal current. Nature 10 May 2012, Vol 485, page 225. DOI: 10.1038/nature11064

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Sean_W
2 / 5 (24) May 09, 2012
Computer models again, eh wot? The same ones they've been using which can't predict anything accurately?

And not to nit-pick but:
"They refute the widespread assumption that ice shelves in the Weddell Sea would not be affected by the direct influences of global warming due to the peripheral location of the Sea."


No. They (the predictions) refute nothing. They contest or dispute the so-called assumption. One wording is factual; the other is not. This kind of language trick is why so many people believe that everything the warmists say has been proven "scientifically". They are told something is proven so they believe it. They are told the issue is settled and all real scientists are on the same page so they believe it.
Sean_W
2 / 5 (23) May 09, 2012
Sorry, when I said the computer models could not predict anything accurately, I should have said that they could not do so *independently* and without "corrections" and cherry picking by human researchers.
A2G
1.9 / 5 (23) May 09, 2012
Sean W...I also noticed right away that these researchers refute the assumptions of most other researchers to come up with this "alarming" prediction.

So they are even going further than other climate people to get noticed. If they were just saying the same old thing then their paper wouldn't stand out. One up man-ship is going on in most of the sciences I am afraid and studies have proven that many researchers are willing to cook their data to keep funding or get noticed.

I want to make the earth a cleaner and better place, but fighting non-existent invisible dragons is a waste of effort that could be better used elsewhere.
Parsec
3.9 / 5 (19) May 09, 2012
Sean an d A2G - you need to get out more. I don't know if you have noticed computers getting more powerful and less expensive? Progress on climate models in just the last few years has been astonishing. Current models do an excellent job of forecasting current conditions using past years. And they will just get better as more and more realistic physical processes are added to them.

While I wouldn't start counting the lifeboats yet, a mechanism where global warming could affect the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in the next century or two needs to be taken seriously.
NotParker
1.7 / 5 (24) May 09, 2012
"Measuring ice stream catchments feeding the Filchner-Ronne
Ice Shelf, scientists Joughin and Bamber re-evaluated the mass balances of
the ice in Antarctica.

Instead of the 3.6 ± 9.1 gigaton/yr net thinning estimate of Rignot and Thomas,
Joughin and Bamber found a net thickening of 39 ± 26 Gton/yr (= 1.6 ± 1 cm/yr),
equivalent to a sea-level reduction of 0.11 ± 0.07 mm/yr. "

http://www.iceage...wing.htm
MikPetter
3.9 / 5 (7) May 09, 2012
From the Article -- quote( Hartmut Hellmer and his colleagues have thoroughly checked the model results for being realistic: "We started the BRIOS model in 1860 to see whether its results also represent the current situation. We found that this condition was satisfied. For example, the water temperatures for the Weddell Sea predicted by BRIOS are close to those we have actually measured in the recent past")
MikPetter
2.7 / 5 (7) May 09, 2012
GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 32, L17503, doi:10.1029/2005GL023844, 2005
JOUGHIN AND BAMBER: ICE STREAM THICKENING
"While Antarcticas response to climate change is one of the major uncertainties in sea level projections for the
next several centuries [Church and Gregory, 2001], significant progress is being made in understanding ice sheets
current mass balance. For example, satellite altimeters have measured an average 1.4 cm/yr thickening from 1992 to
2003 [Davis et al., 2005]. East Antarctic thickening is partially offset by West Antarctic thinning [Davis et al.,
2005], largely in response to rapid thinning along the Amundsen Coast [Rignot and Thomas, 2002; Shepherdet al., 2002]."
The paper above makes no reference to this mass balance on global sea levels.
NotParker
1.5 / 5 (17) May 09, 2012

The paper above makes no reference to this mass balance on global sea levels.


"Our results show a 39 plus/minus 26 Gton/yr thickening, whereas earlier flux-gate results indicated minor thinning. Our results are consistent with altimeter-derived estimates of elevation change. This suggests that altimeter-observed thickening on the East Antarctic plateau may be the result of some combination of a 20th Century accumulation increase and a continuing response to the 50% accumulation increase that began in the early Holocene."

http://www.agu.or...44.shtml

39 gigatonnes can be converted to sea level changes.
jyro
1.6 / 5 (13) May 09, 2012
Precise prediction with anything climate related is impossible. Anyone claiming precise predictions related to climate is a snakeoil salesman.
wiyosaya
3.4 / 5 (5) May 09, 2012
From the Article -- quote( Hartmut Hellmer and his colleagues have thoroughly checked the model results for being realistic: "We started the BRIOS model in 1860 to see whether its results also represent the current situation. We found that this condition was satisfied. For example, the water temperatures for the Weddell Sea predicted by BRIOS are close to those we have actually measured in the recent past")

Thanks for pointing that out. I wonder why other comments indicate that part of the article was left unread?
Lurker2358
2.6 / 5 (15) May 09, 2012
In other words, the model post-dicted the present day results given past data, but Parker still doesn't trust it.
NotParker
1.4 / 5 (20) May 09, 2012
In other words, the model post-dicted the present day results given past data, but Parker still doesn't trust it.


The study I am quoting from used actual measurements:

"altimeter-observed thickening on the East Antarctic plateau"

Measurements say the ice is getting thicker. Models say it shouldn't be getting thicker. But it is.
Lurker2358
3 / 5 (12) May 10, 2012
Parker:

You should check the related stories in the margin from two weeks ago.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.5 / 5 (11) May 10, 2012
Once again all anyone has to do to expose ParkerTard's lie (below) is to look at his own reference. In this case, only consulting the title is needed.

Joughin, I. and Bamber, J.L. 2005. Thickening of the ice stream catchments feeding the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, Antarctica.

"Ice Shelf, scientists Joughin and Bamber re-evaluated the mass balances of the ice in Antarctica." - ParkerTard

The article concerns an old and outdated study in one minute region of Antarctica, not Antarctica as a whole, which according to satellite measurements has a negative mass balance.

Denialis Parker Tard is a congenital liar, and is mentally ill.
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (12) May 10, 2012
Here ParkerTard compounds his original lie.

"Measurements say the ice is getting thicker. Models say it shouldn't be getting thicker. But it is." - ParkerTard

Denialist Parker Tard is a congenital liar, and is mentally ill.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.2 / 5 (10) May 10, 2012
The "Filchner Ronne Ice Shelf" is located here.

http://www.noc.so...fris.jpg
NotParker
1.5 / 5 (17) May 10, 2012
The "Filchner Ronne Ice Shelf" is located here.

http://www.noc.so...fris.jpg


Yes. One side is on the WAIS and one side is on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

" This suggests that altimeter-observed thickening on the East Antarctic plateau may be the result of some combination of a 20th Century accumulation increase and a continuing response to the 50% accumulation increase that began in the early Holocene"

1) Ice is still accumulating in 2005.

2) There is 50% more ice than there was at the beginning of the Holocene and ice is still accumulating.

3) It was measured using altimiters.

NotParker
1.5 / 5 (16) May 10, 2012
Here ParkerTard compounds his original lie.

"Measurements say the ice is getting thicker. Models say it shouldn't be getting thicker. But it is." - ParkerTard

Denialist Parker Tard is a congenital liar, and is mentally ill.


Calling someone a congenital liar and mentally ill for quoting from a paper that embarrasses the deluded is in fact evidence of delusion and metal illness.

So are 30 year permits to slaughter bald eagles.

http://blog.herit...=Feed%3A FoundryConservativePolicyNews %28The Foundry%3A Conservative Policy News.%29
slayerwulfe
5 / 5 (1) May 11, 2012
this alarming prediction is based on a change in ocean currents and it should be taken seriously.
casualjoe
5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2012
It's happening guy's, I just hope we can help in some way..
http://www.ctara....ears.pdf
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (4) May 13, 2012
ParkerTard's latest lie is easy to expose.

His statement "Measurements say the ice is getting thicker. Models say it shouldn't be getting thicker. But it is." is not from a scientific paper. It is his alone, and he produces it without quotes, just several messages above.

"Calling someone a congenital liar and mentally ill for quoting from a paper" - ParkerTard

ParkerTard is a congenital liar and I have not seen a post from him in months that was not laden with lies or evidence of extreme mental illness.
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (4) May 13, 2012
ParkerTard's latest lie is easy to expose.

There are no 30 year permits to slaughter bald eagles. He is repeating a lie told by the most dishonest organization in America, the Heratige Foundation.

"So are 30 year permits to slaughter bald eagles." - ParkerTard

In fact the legislation increases the ease with which the inadvertant death of a bald eagle by machinery can be excused. This is in return for measures that will be taken by industry to attempt to minimize bald eagle mortalities, with additional actions to be required if mortalities exceed anticipated levels.

Parker Tard is clearly suffering from a deep mental illness.
NotParker
1.3 / 5 (14) May 13, 2012

There are no 30 year permits to slaughter bald eagles.


There are 5 year permits.

"at the request of the wind energy industry, FWS has now proposed making the permits good for 30 years."

"(Washington, D.C., April 12, 2012) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nations leading bird conservation organization, has charged that the eagle rule change proposed today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will result in more eagles being killed at wind energy projects."

http://www.abcbir...412.html
Vendicar_Decarian
4.2 / 5 (5) May 13, 2012
"There are 5 year permits." - ParkerTard

There are no permits for a "Slaughter" as you dishonestly claimed.

There are permits for inadvertent death due to machinery, power lines, etc. But only if measures to mitigate those deaths are taken.

Do you intend to remain a liar for the rest of your life ParkerTard?

You are mentally diseased. Seek help.
GSwift7
1.4 / 5 (11) May 14, 2012
There are no permits for a "Slaughter" as you dishonestly claimed.

There are permits for inadvertent death due to machinery, power lines, etc. But only if measures to mitigate those deaths are taken.


So, this is okay, but dolphins in nets and drowning polar bears aren't? I guess it's okay to drive an endangered species extinct as long as it's for a 'good cause'.

this alarming prediction is based on a change in ocean currents and it should be taken seriously


/facepalm

I seriously hope you're joking. The paper is, unfortunately, paywalled, but the abstract is available at the link above. This is a "what if" scenario that they ran in a climate model. It says that the model predicts that "if" the current changed, the ice "would" melt. (paraphrased)

I wouldn't be too concerned until the assumptions can be verified in the field by actual observations. Nobody knows if the model is correct about this yet. To claim otherwise is not very scientific.
GSwift7
1.3 / 5 (12) May 14, 2012
ParkerTard is a congenital liar


From the way you have used the word 'congenital' in some of your posts, I'm guessing that you don't really know what it means.

You are mentally diseased


Can you help me out? I'm having trouble finding what a 'mental disease' is. It's not even in wiki.

You know the old saying? It's better to keep your mouth shut and look stupid than open it and prove it. Take a hint.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (3) May 14, 2012
Congenital Definition
1: existing at or dating from birth
2: constituting an essential characteristic
3: being such by nature

"I'm guessing that you don't really know what it means." - GSwifTard

I am guessing that GSwift does not own a dictionary.

"I'm having trouble finding what a 'mental disease' is." - GSwifTard

"Serious mental diseases are much more common than generally suspected. Up to 3% of the population may develop schizophrenia and another 1% manic depressive psychosis. "

http://www.health...ase.html
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (4) May 14, 2012
It is a matter of scale isn't it?

"So, this is okay, but dolphins in nets and drowning polar bears aren't?" - GSwifTard

Feel free to provide a relative scale for one death over another.

We already have a scale for American life given to us by Conservative Economists. $200,000 per American life.

Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (4) May 14, 2012
Absolutely, do nothing until the damage is done. That is the only rational way to respond to a threat of damage.

In the case of imminent automobile collision do nothing to prevent it.

Do nothing to avoid burning your house down until your house is on fire.

Cancer is not a health problem until you are dying of cancer.

You don't have to worry about being drunk until you are drunk.

Bleeding to death is not a problem until you have bled to death.

"I wouldn't be too concerned until the assumptions can be verified in the field by actual observations." - GSwifTard

NotParker
1.3 / 5 (14) May 14, 2012
Absolutely, do nothing until the damage is done. That is the only rational way to respond to a threat of damage.


The next ice age coming. Billions will starve as agriculture collapses. To do nothing would be irresponsible.

Thats why I burn fossil fuels. I want to save billions of lives.
casualjoe
4 / 5 (4) May 14, 2012

Thats why I burn fossil fuels. I want to save billions of lives.


You have no credibility, and that statement sums up how ignorant you are of today's issues.
Estevan57
2.1 / 5 (28) May 14, 2012
Notparker - "The next ice age coming. Billions will starve as agriculture collapses. To do nothing would be irresponsible.

Thats why I burn fossil fuels. I want to save billions of lives."

Could any statement be more Trollish? Possibly? Your arguments and science are thin. Please just go away.
NotParker
1.2 / 5 (17) May 14, 2012
Notparker - "The next ice age coming. Billions will starve as agriculture collapses. To do nothing would be irresponsible.

Thats why I burn fossil fuels. I want to save billions of lives."

Could any statement be more Trollish? Possibly? Your arguments and science are thin. Please just go away.


Your subleader in the cult said: "Absolutely, do nothing until the damage is done. "

Why would you want to wait until it is too late? WHY DO YOU HATE THOSE BILLIONS WHO WILL STARVE?

Estevan57
2 / 5 (27) May 14, 2012
Not rationalParker You obviously can't distiguish sarcasm from statement, even with 5 totally riduculous examples to choose from.

Get a grip, or replace the tinfoil in your hat.

Congrats, you have hijacked yet another comments section to your own "special" brand of obtuse idiocy. You win.
NotParker
1.3 / 5 (16) May 14, 2012
Not rationalParker You obviously can't distiguish sarcasm from statement, even with 5 totally riduculous examples to choose from.


The return to ice age conditions is inevitable. There is a very, very slight chance more CO2 will prevent it. I say slight because in the Eemian (the previous non-iceage period) CO2 went up 100ppm. But that did not prevent the Eemian from ending.

GSwift7
1.3 / 5 (14) May 16, 2012
Serious mental diseases are much more common than generally suspected. Up to 3% of the population may develop schizophrenia and another 1% manic depressive psychosis


You found a bad source. That isn't typical terminology, and most people would call that incorrect, or ill informed at best.
GSwift7
1.3 / 5 (12) May 16, 2012
I have to ask what the ice age or fossil fuel have to do with the above article?

As I pointed out previously, this article is only a hypothetical what-if scenario, and it isn't even verifiable with present data. Go read the abstract. You're making way too much of it.

If the change in ocean current is verified, then the mass balance of the ice sheet is measured with sufficient accuracy to also verify the predicted change, then you can compare the predictions of the computer model to observed changes and evaluate how well the model performs. None of that has been done.

Another question: Do you even know what kind of model they used?
GSwift7
1.3 / 5 (13) May 16, 2012
The following is from the Ice2Sea web site (that's who did the work above):

This work begins with projections of global climate based on different emissions of greenhouse gases. These global climate models are then used to drive regional atmospheric models that allow projections of the direct specific atmospheric changes likely to occur in Greenland and Antarctica, and ocean models that predict how oceans deliver heat to the ice sheets. Several new ice sheet models are beginning to be developed, and these will be driven using the atmosphere and ocean model output, to predict the changes in the ice sheets


So, models all the way down. GCM prediction fed into regional model, those results fed into an ocean current model, then a new model they are creating themselves is tied to the current model. Doesn't that seem a little dubious to anyone except me?
GSwift7
1.3 / 5 (12) May 16, 2012
So, in light of what their own web site says; "Several new ice sheet models are beginning to be developed", what does the article here mean?

They are "beginning" to develop ice models. Does the above article even vaguely resemble the truth? Even the linked abstract uses words like "would" and "could".

I find articles like the one here disgusting. It's a deliberate distortion of the facts, in an effort to push an agenda. Absolutely shameless pile of exagerations and partial truths. Typical for extremists like some of you guys here. Easy to expose though.
GSwift7
1.3 / 5 (12) May 16, 2012
lol, in the article the guy is quoted as saying
Hellmer and his colleagues have thoroughly checked the model results for being realistic: "We started the BRIOS model in 1860 to see whether its results also represent the current situation. We found that this condition was satisfied


lol. Circular. The models are based on the data. So, will the model reproduce the data it was created from? Unless the people who created it are complete morons, then OF COURSE IT WILL. Duh. That doesn't mean that it can predict anything in the future. We all know how good a job other climate and weather models can do. Hmmm, hurricane season predictions? Hurricane track/strength predictions? Winter snowfall outlook predictions? El Nino/la nina predictions? And those are all very short term predictions. A 10 year climate prediction is snake oil. Buy it if you want. Rub it all over yourself. Hope it helps you. I'll pray for you, lol.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.5 / 5 (6) May 16, 2012
Ya, you denialist Tards have been claiming that since the 1970's

"The next ice age coming." - ParkerTard

Vendicar_Decarian
3.2 / 5 (5) May 16, 2012
Swiftie just ain't that swift. He doesn't seem to know what the word "new" means/implies.

""Several new ice sheet models are beginning to be developed", what does the article here mean?
They are "beginning" to develop ice models" - GSwifTard

Oh well, when you are living in an denialist pretend reality dishonestly parsing sentences and omitting words is a principle means of getting there.

NotParker
1.3 / 5 (15) May 18, 2012
Ya, you denialist Tards have been claiming that since the 1970's

"The next ice age coming." - ParkerTard



Solar Cycle 24 is shaping up to be half the "size" as 23, which was significantly smaller than Cycle 22.

http://www.leif.o...ount.png

A Maunder-type minimum cannot be ruled out.

http://wattsupwit...s/solar/

Leif Svaalgard is quite an important solar researcher.

"New paper suggests sun may be headed for a Maunder minimum"

http://wattsupwit...minimum/

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