Antarctic team digs deep to predict climate future

Apr 06, 2013 by Nick Perry
In this photo taken on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, scientist Nancy Bertler holds the final section of ice she collected from a half-mile under Antarctica's surface in a laboratory freezer, near Wellington, New Zealand. Antarctica's pristine habitat provides a laboratory for scientists studying the effects of climate change. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)

Nancy Bertler and her team took a freezer to the coldest place on Earth, endured weeks of primitive living and risked spending the winter in Antarctic darkness, to go get ice—ice that records our climate's past and could point to its future.

They drilled out hundreds of ice cores, each slightly longer and wider than a , from the half-mile-thick ice covering Antarctica's Roosevelt Island. The cores, which may total 150,000 years of snowfall, almost didn't survive the boat ride to New Zealand because of a power outage.

Bertler hopes the material will help her estimate how long the Ross would last under the current rate of climate change before falling apart.

Evidence from the last core her team hauled out needs further study, but it contains material that Bertler said appeared to be marine sediment that formed recently—at least in geological terms measured in thousands of years.

That would bolster scientists' suspicions that the shelf could collapse again if keep rising, triggering a chain of events that could raise sea levels around the world.

In this Nov. 22, 2012 photo released by scientist Nancy Bertler, scientists and staff work on ice cores they've collected, on Roosevelt Island, Antarctica. The team dug a trench in the snow to work from. Antarctica's pristine habitat provides a laboratory for scientists studying the effects of climate change. (AP Photo/Courtesy Nancy Bertler)

"From a scientific point of view, that's really exciting. From a personal point of view, that's really scary," said Bertler, a senior research fellow at the Antarctic Research Centre at the Victoria University of Wellington.

The ice shelf acts as a protecting massive amounts of ice in West Antarctica, and that ice also could fall into the ocean if the shelf fell apart. Scientists say West Antarctica holds enough ice to raise sea levels by between 2 meters (6.5 feet) and 6 meters (20 feet) if significant parts of it were to collapse.

Ted Scambos, the lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, said that even under the he thinks it would take at least 500 years for 's ice to melt.

However, he said a discovery of sediment would indicate a significant portion of the ice shelf is under threat of becoming unstable again, and that the implications were "huge."

Bertler hopes the material she recovered will help her to estimate by the end of this year whether it will take 50 years or 500 years for the ice shelf to collapse at the current rate of climate change. Those answers should prove important for policymakers who, she said, may need to decide whether to build sea walls or move populations to higher ground.

In this Dec. 3 2012 photo released by scientist Nancy Bertler, electrician Hedley Berge walks through fog at his team's isolated camp on Roosevelt Island, Antarctica. The continent's pristine habitat provides a laboratory for scientists studying the effects of climate change. (AP Photo/Courtesy Nancy Bertler)

Bertler's project is one of scores that take place on Antarctica every Southern Hemisphere summer. To scientists, the continent's pristine habitat offers a unique record of the planet's weather and a laboratory for studying the effects of climate change.

Studies indicate that while the Arctic has suffered what scientists consider to be alarming rates of ice loss in recent years, the Antarctic ice shelf has remained relatively stable despite having have lost ice in recent decades.

Research in Antarctica creates huge logistical and personal challenges.

In this Jan. 18, 2013 photo released by scientist Nancy Bertler, a solar halo brightens the sky over the remote camp where Bertler and 13 others worked, on Roosevelt Island, Antarctica. Caused by light reflecting and refracting from ice crystals, such halos are spectacular but typically presage bad weather. Antarctica's pristine habitat provides a laboratory for scientists studying the effects of climate change. (AP Photo/Courtesy Nancy Bertler)

Bertler's camp on is a three-hour flight from the nearest permanent Antarctic outposts, Scott Base and McMurdo Station. The island is surrounded by the Ross Ice Shelf, the world's largest mass of floating ice, covering an area the size of Spain.

Even during the spring and summer months when Bertler's team was working there, the temperature sometimes dropped to minus 25 C (minus 13 F) and there were frequent storms and thick fog.

In this Nov. 22, 2012 photo released by scientist Nancy Bertler, doctoral students, Holly Winton, left, and Aja Ellis, work on an ice core on Roosevelt Island, Antarctica. The continent's pristine habitat provides a laboratory for scientists studying the effects of climate change. (AP Photo/Courtesy Nancy Bertler)

At one point bad weather even compelled logistics experts to prepare a plan to keep the 14-member team there through the Antarctic winter, four months of almost total darkness and temperatures that can drop to minus 60 C (minus 76 F).

The weather improved, but the round-the-clock daylight of the Antarctic summer is grueling enough. Bertler, 42, who has spent nearly every summer there for 14 years, says its boundless frontiers can feel like a prison, though she has grown to love the exceptional landscape.

Deep Antarctic dig seeks pointers to sea level
In this Dec. 4, 2012 photo released by scientist Nancy Bertler, scientists and staff work on ice cores they've collected on Roosevelt Island, Antarctica. The continent's pristine habitat provides a laboratory for scientists studying the effects of climate change. (AP Photo/Courtesy Nancy Bertler)

While on the island, the team's only form of communication was three satellite phones. Every person carried a GPS unit in case he or she got lost in the fog or storms.

The crew worked 10-hour shifts, read, occasionally skied cross-country. Some found it difficult to sleep in permanent daylight. "Everything becomes quite primal, in a way," Bertler said. "You're just thinking about your daily survival, being safe, and doing the work that you're there to do."

In this Dec. 17, 2012 photo released by scientist Nancy Bertler, scientists and staff push a sled containing crates of ice they've collected in order to load them on a plane on Roosevelt Island, Antarctica. The continent's pristine habitat provides a laboratory for scientists studying the effects of climate change. (AP Photo/Courtesy Nancy Bertler)

The team used a sophisticated drill to collect cylinders or cores of ice. To ensure the samples stayed cold enough to get safely to New Zealand, the team had to do something that seemed counterintuitive: import a freezer to Antarctica.

Still, the thousands of years of history collected in the ice cores almost melted away on the voyage home, when huge waves knocked out power to the freezer and swamped a backup generator. It was 36 hours before a technician could get on deck and restore power. But the ice stayed cold enough and reached the project's base in Wellington, the New Zealand capital, last month.

The cores consist of sandwich-like layers of ice, formed when annual snowfall compacts to a fraction of its original depth. Bertler said she believes most of the ice she has collected is less than 40,000 years old, although the final pieces near the rock bottom could be up to 150,000 years old.

In this Dec. 9, 2012 photo released by Thomas Beer, emperor penguins walk across sea ice near Ross Island, Antarctica. The continent's pristine habitat provides a laboratory for scientists studying the effects of climate change. (AP Photo/Courtesy Thomas Beer)

The material Bertler thinks may be marine sediment came from 760 meters (2,500 feet) deep.

Richard Levy, a New Zealand scientist who specializes in past climates and who was not involved in Bertler's research, said the project provides a high level of detail about climate change over relatively short periods of time.

The layers of allow scientists to measure atmospheric gas levels on an almost annual basis going back thousands of years, he said. That complements rock-drilling work Levy and others have done in the Antarctic interior, which tracks over longer time horizons of several million years, he said.

In this photo taken on Friday, March 8, 2013, scientist Nancy Bertler stands in a laboratory freezer in front of boxes of ice she collected from Antarctica, near Wellington, New Zealand. Antarctica's pristine habitat provides a laboratory for scientists studying the effects of climate change. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)

Bertler's project has taken about seven years to complete and cost about 11 million New Zealand dollars ($9.2 million), most of which has come from the New Zealand government. Scientists from Australia, Britain, China, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the U.S. also are involved.

Tim Naish, a colleague of Bertler's who heads New Zealand's Antarctic Research Centre, said that if Bertler has indeed found recent marine sediment, it could be significant.

"It will provide insight into what happens when the Earth warms," he said.

Explore further: Research charts the ecological impact of microbial respiration in the oxygen-starved ocean

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Skepticus
3.7 / 5 (19) Apr 06, 2013
Kudos to these hardy, dedicated souls who braved the harsh elements to provide a head up for the future. I wonder what all the armchair climate change critics will say about such dedication from the comfort of their heated/airconditioned rooms...he he
Egleton
3.5 / 5 (13) Apr 06, 2013
Seconded Skepticus.
Shootist
1.8 / 5 (20) Apr 06, 2013
Climate models cannot correctly predict the NOW, much less the future.
Maggnus
3.8 / 5 (17) Apr 06, 2013
Climate models don't try to predict the NOW moron, that's called "weather".
NikFromNYC
1.6 / 5 (19) Apr 06, 2013
"the Antarctic ice shelf has remained relatively stable despite having have lost ice in recent decades."

Brazen lies help fund adventure vacations for incompetents whose cores suffer accidents worthy of a Mars lander crash.

Antarctic ice in recent decades is breaking records by *increasing*, not "holding steady," and the continent itself which contains a whopping 90% of world ice has smoothly *cooled* since records began in the '40s and as everybody knows, ice shelves break off not due to melting but due to growth of mass out from the land.

Google "Cyrosphere Today" for official data archives and plots and then Google "Steig Fraud" to see how a Nature cover story map of red (warming) Antarctica was a classic example of lying with statistics that smeared the volcanic penninsula all over the cooling interior.

Funding for agenda-driven climatology is represents a deadly opportunity cost in an era of antibiotic resistance.
Maggnus
3.9 / 5 (14) Apr 06, 2013
Oh gawd here we go again, NikfromLunaticville.

So lets see, what allegations have we from him today? 1) scientists lie to get adventure vacations in Antarctica. 2) Scientists are lying about the condition of the Antarctic ice. 3)That "everyone knows" the ice insn't melting, buit rather breaking off at its margins because it is actually growing. 4)The scientific magazine Nature lied. 5) Funding of any climate science is bad and takes away from important science.

And he knows alll this because he's been to Antarctica and done studies. Oh wait, no. He hasn't been there, or done studies, or done science, or apparently gone past grade school. Lunatic fringe, we ain't gonna get fooled this time.
lewando
2.9 / 5 (16) Apr 06, 2013
Climate models don't try to predict the NOW moron, that's called "weather".

Sure they do. Here's how: take your favorite climate model from the 1993 climate model archives (one that has been properly tuned and tweeked using only 1993's best available data and science) and ask it politely to predict the 2013 climate. How do you think it will do? Most people would not expect it to predict anything very well due to the 1993 model's ignorance of present-day data & science.

By the way, is it just me who thinks calling someone a moron or -tard is bad form? To me, it diminishes integrity/credibility. It is also an indicator of debate-fatigue.
Neinsense99
2.8 / 5 (13) Apr 06, 2013
Climate models don't try to predict the NOW moron, that's called "weather".
Sure they do.
---
No, they don't. They might be used to predict what climate is like during a period in the future, over a wide area. The "2013 climate" you say climate models might try to predict is not "now", not in the sense of the original post, which was a clear attempt at the tired tactic of confusing climate with weather in a specific location and time. But by all means, let the obfuscation continue....
Maggnus
3.4 / 5 (10) Apr 06, 2013
@ lewando: Perhaps you have a new definition of now? 1993 is 20 years ago, not "now". And, oh by the way, the IPCC report of 1990 (the first report) was very accurate in almost all of its predictions of "climate".

So I guess the answer to your loaded and rhetorical question is, they will do quite well.

So tell me, is someone who refuses to accept proof, and will not follow logic, and uses over and over again the same tired arguments in a manner that can only be described as using pidgeon chess not accurately described as a moron? How much of the debate, such as it is, have you witnessed?
Neinsense99
3.3 / 5 (14) Apr 06, 2013
Using "moron" or "-tard" is generally bad form, but when the same crud is repeated again and again after debunking, by the same commenters (or user IDs), and there is a demonstrated inability to learn, these terms lose some of their inappropriateness in that context. The alternative is to assume no intellectual incapacity and look for explanation to moral/ethical incapacity.
Parsec
3.3 / 5 (7) Apr 06, 2013
Frankly, I find it unlikely that moron or tard are accurate terms for many of the denialists. I remember denialists from another era, when the tobacco industry spent millions of dollars on fake research trying to obscure the relationship between smoking and disease, so they could continue to profit from cigarette sales. They were finally discredited and today no one, even smokers, really questions that linkage.

To find the movers and shakers, the primary rule is "follow the money". Clearly, the hundreds of billions of profits in the fossil fuel industry is where the money is. While I think there are a lot of people without education and less than average intelligence who echo the lies they have swallowed, I suspect many of the prominent deniers are in the pay of the fossil fuel industry.

A more accurate term for these deniers might be "professional liars".
Claudius
2 / 5 (12) Apr 06, 2013
"And, oh by the way, the IPCC report of 1990 (the first report) was very accurate in almost all of its predictions of "climate"."

This is demonstrably false.

The predictions you refer to are the adjusted predictions. The original predictions greatly overestimated warming. It was the alarming nature of the original predictions that alarmed politicians enough to get behind carbon mitigation and taxation schemes. If the original predictions had included the current "adjustments" they would not have appeared alarming and the political impetus would not have occurred.
Maggnus
3.4 / 5 (10) Apr 06, 2013
This is demonstrably false.


Bull Bloody Crap. The 1990 IPCC report: http://www.ipcc.c...port.pdf

Original, unabridged. Try reading it.

The predictions you refer to are the adjusted predictions.

Wrong. Try reading it.
The original predictions greatly overestimated warming.
Wrong. Try reading it.
It was the alarming nature of the original predictions that alarmed politicians enough to get behind carbon mitigation and taxation schemes.
The conspiracy again.
If the original predictions had included the current "adjustments" they would not have appeared alarming and the political impetus would not have occurred.
Wrong. Try reading it.
Forestgnome
1.7 / 5 (11) Apr 06, 2013
Kudos to these hardy, dedicated souls who braved the harsh elements to provide a head up for the future. I wonder what all the armchair climate change critics will say about such dedication from the comfort of their heated/airconditioned rooms...he he

Really? The ultimate camping trip paid for by taxpayers. Been there, done that. Would do it again in a heartbeat.
Claudius
2.3 / 5 (12) Apr 06, 2013
This graph is from the original IPCC data: http://clivebest....omp1.png

Note the observed temperature is lower than the lowest predicted values.

This report: 1990 IPCC Report Successfully Predicted Warming, New Study Shows http://www.huffin...453.html

In which report the following statement is made:

"After an adjustment to account for natural fluctuations, the predictions and the observed increases matched up, the current research found."

So there you have it, the original prediction was grossly overestimated, and the "successful" prediction of warming was accomplished after an "adjustment."
Maggnus
3.2 / 5 (9) Apr 06, 2013
As usual, you misrepresent the science and make allegations that are not support by the evidence.

There are dozens of predictions in that report, you purveyor of lies, and you cherry pick one, then use that one cherry picked item to make the grand accusation that all of climate science is wrong. Yet another fallacy Claudius, and an outright lie to boot.

So, when can we expect you to stop commenting?
Claudius
2 / 5 (12) Apr 06, 2013
I downloaded the report: http://www.ipcc.c...port.pdf

It's 414 pages long, took a really long time to download. Have you actually read it?

In any case I found the graph I referenced before, it just doesn't have the observations to compare with.

"and you cherry pick one"

Yes, the one that shows that the predicted global temperature grossly overestimated observed temperatures. Quite a significant little cherry, considering your statement that the report had been "very accurate". Who knows, perhaps there is actually an accurate prediction somewhere in the report, but the one concerning warming is the one I'm interested in.

"So, when can we expect you to stop commenting?"

When the IPCC is fully discredited, and carbon mitigation and taxation are repealed. Probably best you don't reply to my comments, pretend I don't exist.

gregor1
2.1 / 5 (14) Apr 06, 2013
According to the latest icesat data ice gains exceed losses
http://wattsupwit...-losses/
runrig
3.7 / 5 (6) Apr 07, 2013

So there you have it, the original prediction was grossly overestimated, and the "successful" prediction of warming was accomplished after an "adjustment."


Claudius: Forecasts go wrong you know. They don't come down from Mt Sinai written on tablets of stone.
If I want to know the weather in a weeks time ( with highest prob of success ) then I don't go with the one published today I wait until closer to the time. During that time the forecast is updated with real-time data and is improved. Same here. It is HOW forecasts are made. You must always update with the real world. As I say, they are not cast in stone. To say the original forecast is discredited because it has been updated is wrong-headed. It is just the nature of things. The best we can do at the time ... and the time... and the time.
Maggnus
3.9 / 5 (7) Apr 07, 2013
Yes, the one that shows that the predicted global temperature grossly overestimated observed temperatures. Quite a significant little cherry, considering your statement that the report had been "very accurate". Who knows, perhaps there is actually an accurate prediction somewhere in the report, but the one concerning warming is the one I'm interested in.


Look at you go! "Grossly" over estimated did they? WHen reading that report, did it filter down into your mind that the report was the 1st, and written over 20 years ago? Did the fact of it being the "First" report cause you to consider that there have been more recent ones? You see, Claudius, how using misrepresentation works against you? At least you admit to cherry picking one of many predictions.

And yes, my contention is that that 20 year old report WAS very accurate considering when it was written. The are newer ones Claudius, you ought to read them too. They are really big too, hope that's not too daunting for you.
Maggnus
3.9 / 5 (7) Apr 07, 2013
Have you actually read it?


Of course I have, misrepresenter, along with the next 3 in the series. I linked it for you, remember? I've read the newer ones too.

Probably best you don't reply to my comments, pretend I don't exist.


Why, so your misrepresentations and allegations of conspiracy can go unanswered, thus leaving you with the illusion that no one notices? Not going to happen! Although I do not consider you not to exist, I do consider you worthy of about the same amount of credibility as I pay to the conspiracists that claim the moon landing was a hoax. DO you believe in that too?
Maggnus
3.9 / 5 (7) Apr 07, 2013
By the way, I think it is hilarious and utterly predictble that every comment you have made about the 1st IPCC report up to now was done without you even having taken the time to look it up and read it!

"The IPCC Report is wrong and everything it predicted did not happen. I know this because I read it on a climate denialists internet blog, and he told it was true. And, as you know, if it's said on the internet it has to be true!"

Absolutely epicly hilarious!!! Let me guess, you're meeting a French model for lunch too right?
deepsand
2.6 / 5 (10) Apr 07, 2013
According to the latest icesat data ice gains exceed losses
http://wattsupwit...-losses/

Says an former TV weather reporter with no academic credentials.
Claudius
1 / 5 (9) Apr 07, 2013
"To say the original forecast is discredited because it has been updated is wrong-headed."

If next week's weather forecast is wrong, it isn't very significant. At least not to me, I expect inaccuracy.

The problem is that these models are being used as "proof" of AGW. The validity of the prediction is significant, because it was used for propaganda purposes to convince politicians to begin carbon mitigation and taxation. If they had been presented with the more accurate "adjusted" report back then, would they have taken the same actions? Also, the adjusted report is being used to claim that the original report was accurate, so as to validate the use of models in making accurate predictions of the future. It did not do it in 1990, and we will have to wait to see what happens to current predictions. It is problematic using models to predict rather than to test hypotheses, anyway.
QuixoteJ
1 / 5 (7) Apr 08, 2013
Claudius: Forecasts go wrong you know. They don't come down from Mt Sinai written on tablets of stone.
If I want to know the weather in a weeks time ( with highest prob of success ) then I don't go with the one published today I wait until closer to the time. During that time the forecast is updated with real-time data and is improved. Same here. It is HOW forecasts are made. You must always update with the real world. As I say, they are not cast in stone. To say the original forecast is discredited because it has been updated is wrong-headed. It is just the nature of things. The best we can do at the time ... and the time... and the time.
I have to echo Claudius here. We are not dealing with something like a weather prediction that might cause you to miss out on a nice day at the park.

We are dealing with estimations that some people interpret as hard evidence that says we need to drastically change the course of Mankind by noon tomorrow.
Maggnus
5 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2013
I have to echo Claudius here. We are not dealing with something like a weather prediction that might cause you to miss out on a nice day at the park.

We are dealing with estimations that some people interpret as hard evidence that says we need to drastically change the course of Mankind by noon tomorrow.


Yes, Quixote, some science suggests that without drastic and immediate steps, we are going to see some major climatic shifts. Some of it seems to be happening already. Some science suggests we may already be too lateto do anything, and we should concentrate on mitigation.

Almost no science, anywhere, says it is not happening.

And your point? Are you suggesting that because there are some who suggest we should be taking radical steps that we should, what, do nothing?
runrig
5 / 5 (5) Apr 08, 2013
If next week's weather forecast is wrong, ... I expect inaccuracy. The problem is that these models are being used as "proof" of AGW.


I make the analogy because models need grounding in reality. You rubbished the 1st IPPC forecast because of revision.
WHY do you NOT expect inaccuracy in climate forecasts too? At least in being captured fully by their error bounds. You know of the variables overlying the CO2 signal and the fact that their periodicity is not clockwork. No, not proof as in 100% nailed down to the precise trend-line/slope and every last twist and turn of it. You are seeing the noise in the climate system and like "weather" there is some chaos in there. But of a limited extent. It is not possible to model it that precisely BUT the CO2 signal remains and re-emerges. It is the best we can do with the current state of the art and it is being acted upon NOT because it is PROOF but because should it be correct then the consequences will be great. We cant afford to wait.
Maggnus
5 / 5 (4) Apr 09, 2013
The problem is that these models are being used as "proof" of AGW.


Geezus Claudius, no they are not! Research findings from across a broad range of disciplines is the proof of global warming. Models are there to try and understand the effects of the warming.

No wonder you have such a poor understanding of what the science is!