The article by Guardian Environment editor Damian Carrington on redefining the English language mentioned by Paul in his recent post led me to another article by Damian published just the day before, titled “‘Extraordinary thinning’ of ice sheets revealed deep inside Antarctica.”
The subtitle says: “New research shows affected areas are losing ice five times faster than in the 1990s, with more than 100m of thickness gone in some places” and the article quotes Prof Andy Shepherd, of Leeds University as saying: “From a standing start in the 1990s, thinning has spread inland progressively over the past 25 years.”
Professor Shepherd was, you may remember, the sole expert in the BBC documentary “Climate Change – The Facts” who provided information which was a) factual and b) about climate change. He claimed (you can check the details in the transcript here) that ice melt now in Greenland and Antarctica is several times faster now than 25 years ago. But in this article he rather gives the game away when he says “From a standing start in the 1990s..”
Standing start? What started 25 or so years ago was our ability to measure ice thickness, or rather height above sea level, (not accounting for isostatic depression, and other mental illnesses common among cryologists.) This was due to the effort of a mathematical boffin called Chris Rapley, who did the measurement stuff for the satellites overflying Antarctica, and therefore got labelled as a climate scientist, leading to a brief period as head of the London Science Museum, an even briefer Thespian career at the Royal Court, and eventually a chair at University College London. Chris was the BBC’s science expert on the programme “… the Facts” and was no doubt responsible for the decision that at least one of the scientists interviewed should be neither a notorious liar and charlatan, nor the director of a company making money out of climate hysteria. Nice to meet you Andy.
Professors Chris Rapley and Andy Shepherd are apparently unaware of Morabito’s Law: that any improvement in the method of measuring some variable relative to our planet inevitably leads to the conclusion that the planet is in danger. This Law can be found somewhere on Maurizio’s excellent site. It’s not here, but it’s somewhere close, and it’s why I got Maurizio put on our list of contributors, though he’s never contributed anything, the lazy so-and-so. And also because he revealed the names of the 28 experts the BBC chose to indoctrinate their staff on global warming/ changing/ hysteria/ overdosing/ watchamacallit. Maurizio is apparently now giving guided tours to historical East London. See you in July Maurizio. It’d better be good. At least as good as your law of the Inevitability of Catastrophe Revealed by Any New Technological Method of Measurement.
I recently observed that in ten years of reading Guardian articles on climate disaster I’d hardly ever seen something as telling, as obvious, as a graph. This article makes up for it by providing an animated video of Antarctic ice thinning which you can see on Youtube here. It’s thirteen seconds long, the last three seconds of which are a Guardian banner (ten seconds presumably being the attention span of a typical Guardian reader.) It consists of two images: 1) an animated map of Antarctica showing elevation change, with declining elevations (melting) in red and rising elevations (snowfall) in blue and; 2) sea level contribution in mm from 1993 to 2019.
I took a screenshot of the animated map and, true enough, the tiny points of red around Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island anticlockwise from the West Antarctic Peninsula (the areas mentioned in the Guardian article) increase dramatically, indicating melting of 20 metres thickness or so. Taking a screenshot and blowing it up, one notices that other areas in West Antarctica are blue, indicating increased snowfall. Also, the number of spots increases dramatically over the 25 years, but they’re not coloured. If there’s anyone out there with an app that counts pixels, it would be fun to count how many are blue, how many pink, and how many (like the fairies in Peter Pan) don’t know quite what they are. My eyeballing app counts the area of Antarctic covered as approximately 0.001%, but I’m probably out by a magnitude or two. Hey, what’s a magnitude between climate scientists?
But“deep inside Antarctica?”Not very. About five millimetres deep on my screen. Ice is melting near the coast, where there’s warm(ish) ocean currents and recently discovered underwater volcanoes. The only thing visible anywhere “deep” inside Antarctica is a splodge of blue indicating a recent 10-15 metre deep snowdrift the size of Britain. You can’t see it on the Guardian’s filmet, but it’s there.
The second part of the Guardian’s graphic is a graph of sea level rise, which is interesting because it consists of a doubleheaded hockeystick, with sea level rise attributed to ice melt rising steeply from ’92 to ’97, flat from ’97 to 2003, rising gently from 2003 to 2011, and steeply again from 2011 to 2019 (yes, the Guardian, like the BBC, is happy to provide data for the year to come. I checked with my trusty transparent ruler on the screen.)
What’s interesting is that the four stages of progress of sea level rise correspond precisely to the four periods measured by different satellites. ERS1 rose like a Siberian larch on Viagra. ERS2 found no increase, and was replaced by Envisat which found a small rise, which was replaced by Cryosat which took off like a rocket. Every new satellite launch represents a few million dollars of your taxes, and a new twist in the scientific data. I’m not against scientific progress in principle, but… wouldn’t it be a whole lot simpler if we admitted that the earth is flat and buzzed it with drones? Apparently, 10% of AirB&B rentals have been found to be equipped with hidden cameras. Why not privatise research into the cryosphere and let AirB&B explore the 99.999% of the surface of Antarctica unknown to Rapley?
The Guardian article doesn’t actually link to the scientific article on which it’s based. So we won’t either. But it does link to lots of other articles, mostly at the Guardian, such as this one titled: “Antarctic ice sheets face catastrophic collapse without deep emissions cuts
Study finds that a global temperature increase of 3C would cause ice shelves to disappear, triggering sea-level rise that would continue for thousands of years”
and there’s a graph showing how things will shape out under emissions scenario RCP8.5 – in the year 5000.
No, really, I’m all for taking the long view, but this is like some ancient Sumerian warning us about the perils we’re facing in the 21stcentury. With all due respect to any ancient Sumerians among our readership, this is silly. I mean, research snowfall in the Antarctic by all means if you must (but must you?) but at least cover more than the piddling little 0.01% of the continent represented by the red and blue splotches on your map.
And, Professor Andy Shepherd, if you really are the one honest climate scientist associated with Attenborough’s programme, please make your voice heard. Because the BBC is heading for a big big fall. Dead baby bats in a heat wave do not a catastrophe make. We’re on to you. And we believe in science. How can we lose?