Another Greenland melting scare

From the “it’s worse than we thought department”:

A new paper published in Science Advances claims that the amount of melting of coastal glaciers in eastern Greenland has been underestimated by about 20 gigatonnes per year. (Link to full paper titled “Geodetic measurements reveal similarities between post–Last Glacial Maximum and present-day mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet”) The paper does not mention global warming or climate change. The melting is due entirely to geologic processes. But the press manages to sound an alarm.

The New York Post translates the 20 gigatonnes figure to pounds to make it scarier sounding: “The new study, published in Science Advances, discovered that the island is losing 550 trillion pounds of ice a year — 40 trillion, and about 7.6 percent, more than scientists previously thought.”

The Post quotes a professor:

“It is pretty scary,” Michael Bevis, a professor at Ohio State University and co-author of the study, told the AP. “If you look at the last 15 years since we’ve been having these measurements, it’s clearly getting worse.” According to Bevis, the extra ice will add approximately 1/50th of an inch a decade to global sea level. So 1/50th of an inch per decade is scary?

An article from Climate Central (an alarmist site) begins with these paragraphs:

Rising temperatures are melting ice and sending it to the ocean, a process that is pushing sea levels higher and altering the landscape at both poles. The latest news comes from Greenland, where researchers have used high-tech satellite and GPS measurements to see how much mass the ice sheet is losing.

Their results, published this week in Science Advances, indicate that it’s melting faster than previous estimates, particularly in areas where the ice sheet comes in direct contact with the ocean. It’s a troubling finding for the future of coastal areas around the world.

Greenland hot spotThe claim that melting is due to rising temperatures is debunked by the Science Advances study itself. In the study, they show that isostatic rebound following the last glacial maximum is tilting the continent and causing east coast glaciers to flow faster into the sea. They also note that “The onset of increasing flow of the northeast Greenland ice stream (the largest flow feature of the ice sheet), for example, has been linked to a geothermal hot spot.”

As I note in my article Greenland surprises:

Ice-penetrating radar and drilling have led to some surprises in Greenland during the last few years. The continent is bowl-shaped, it has a massive canyon running down its middle, and it contains a large aquifer of liquid water beneath the ice. That means that the continental ice sheet is in no danger of slipping into the ocean as some have claimed.

Regardless of the cause of melting, is it “a troubling finding for the future of coastal areas around the world” as claimed by Climate Central?

According to calculations at the Watts Up With That blog, melting of 550 trillion pounds of ice would cause a sea level rise of 0.689 millimeters or 0.0271 inches per year. That additional 40 trillion pounds actually added 0.045 mm/yr to global sea levels. The total melt contributes to sea level rise of less than the thickness of a penny. Do you find that scary?

To put things in further perspective, consider this report:

“A considerable change of climate inexplicable at present to us must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been, during the last two years, greatly abated. 2000 square leagues [approximately 14,000 square miles] of ice with which the Greenland Seas between the latitudes of 74N and 80N have been hitherto covered, has in the last two years entirely disappeared.”

That report is an extract from a letter by the President of the Royal Society addressed to the British Admiralty, written in 1817 (Royal Society, London. Nov. 20, 1817. Minutes of Council, Vol. 8. pp.149-153).

Sea also:

The Sea Level Scam

Geology is responsible for some phenomena blamed on global warming

Melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets have been blamed on global warming, but both have a geologic origin. The “Blob” a recent warm ocean area off the Oregon coast, responsible in part for the hot weather and drought in California, has been blamed on global warming, but that too may have a geologic cause.


My article Greenland surprises (Feb. 2014) reported on research that posited “The Greenland ice sheet is melting from below, caused by a high heat flow from the mantle into the lithosphere. [Lithosphere: The solid part of the earth consisting of the crust and outer mantle.] The Greenland lithosphere is 2.8 to 1.7 billion years old and is only about 70 to 80 kilometers thick under Central Greenland.”

A recent paper (April, 2016) published in Nature Geoscience supports the hypothesis of a geologic cause of metling: Melting at the base of the Greenland ice sheet explained by Iceland hotspot history.

Greenland hot spot

The paper abstract says:

Ice-penetrating radar and ice core drilling have shown that large parts of the north-central Greenland ice sheet are melting from below. It has been argued that basal ice melt is due to the anomalously high geothermal flux that has also influenced the development of the longest ice stream in Greenland. Here we estimate the geothermal flux beneath the Greenland ice sheet and identify a 1,200-km-long and 400-km-wide geothermal anomaly beneath the thick ice cover. We suggest that this anomaly explains the observed melting of the ice sheet’s base, which drives the vigorous subglacial hydrology and controls the position of the head of the enigmatic 750-km-long northeastern Greenland ice stream. Our combined analysis of independent seismic, gravity and tectonic data implies that the geothermal anomaly, which crosses Greenland from west to east, was formed by Greenland’s passage over the Iceland mantle plume between roughly 80 and 35 million years ago. We conclude that the complexity of the present-day subglacial hydrology and dynamic features of the north-central Greenland ice sheet originated in tectonic events that pre-date the onset of glaciation in Greenland by many tens of millions of years.

Geology – not global warming.

West Antarctica:

West Antarctica is underlain by a string of active volcanoes.

Hot rock and ice: Volcanic chain underlies Antarctica Science Daily, Dec. 2015. [link to original paper]

“Scientists were able to deploy ruggidized seismometers that could withstand intense cold in Antarctica only recently. A line of seismometers strung across the West Antarctic Rift Valley and the Marie Byrd Land have given geologists their first good look at the mantle beneath the ice and rocks, revealing areas of hot rock that might affect the behavior of the overlying ice sheet.” “A line of volcanoes hints there might be a hidden mantle plume, like a blowtorch, beneath the plate,” said Doug Wiens, PhD, professor of earth and planetary sciences and a co-author on the paper. “The volcanoes would pop up in a row as the plate moved over it.”

Again, geology not global warming.

The Blob:

The blob

The “blob” was an area of very warm water off the west coast of North America in 2013 and 2014 that was apparently the cause of extreme heat and drought in the West, and record snow and cold in much of the East. The blob was attributed to a persistent high pressure area. But there is another possible cause.

Beneath the “blob” is an active volcanic region called the Axial volcano and seamount. Dr. Tim Ball calculated heat flow from the volcano. He says that “The amount of energy from the magma was far in excess of what was needed to supply the heat necessary to create the ‘Blob anomaly.’” [link]

Axial volcano Oregon

Geology, not global warming.

By the way, the area near the Juan de Fuca rift may be Where the Next Big American Earthquake and Tsunami Might Occur. See more on the eruptions of the Axial Volcano: link.

Gulf Stream Slowing – just another unfounded climate scare

Recently we were treated to some science fiction from “Earthweek: a Diary of the Planet” as published in the Arizona Daily Star. “Earthweek” seems to report almost every climate alarmist claim.

The piece in question claimed the following:

Rapidly melting glaciers due to climate change are diluting the salinity of the North Atlantic to the point that the Gulf Stream has recently become the weakest it’s been in the last 1,000 years, researchers warn. The river of warm water that travels thousands of miles from the Gulf of Mexico to near Britain makes Northern Europe far milder during winter than it otherwise would be. The Gulf Stream is part of a major North Atlantic ocean circulation that pushes warm surface water northward and pulls deep cold water toward the south. But the major ocean ‘engine’ has now been found to be slowing down under the influence of rapid glacial melting in Greenland. ‘There is more than a 99 percent probability that this slowdown is unique over the period we looked at since 900 A.D.,’ Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Rahmstorf did not actually measure velocity of the Gulf Stream; instead he used a “multi-proxy temperature reconstruction” to postulate that cooling of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), possibly from increased ice melt, may be slowing Gulf Stream velocity. Rahmstorf also called this an “unprecedented event.” Such characterization seems to be a favorite among climate alarmists. Rahmstorf ignored natural cycles in Gulf Stream velocity such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. (Mathematician Steve McIntyre takes Rahmstorf’s reconstruction methods apart in three very technical posts here  , here. and here)

There is also some disagreement about Rahmstorf’s velocity claim, mainly from researchers who actually measure Gulf Stream velocity:

Rossby et al., January, 2014, in Geophysical Research Letters:

In contrast to recent claims of a Gulf Stream slowdown, two decades of directly measured velocity across the current show no evidence of a decrease. There are variations of the current over time that are natural — and yes, we need to understand these better — but we find absolutely no evidence that suggests that the Gulf Stream is slowing down.

NASA, March, 2010:

New NASA measurements of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, part of the global ocean conveyor belt that helps regulate climate around the North Atlantic, show no significant slowing over the past 15 years. The data suggest the circulation may have even sped up slightly in the recent past.

The findings are the result of a new monitoring technique, developed by oceanographer Josh Willis of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., using measurements from ocean-observing satellites and profiling floats. The findings are reported in the March 25 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

The Atlantic overturning circulation is a system of currents, including the Gulf Stream, that bring warm surface waters from the tropics northward into the North Atlantic. There, in the seas surrounding Greenland, the water cools, sinks to great depths and changes direction. What was once warm surface water heading north turns into cold deep water going south. This overturning is one part of the vast conveyor belt of ocean currents that move heat around the globe.

Richard Seager, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University:

A few times a year the British media of all stripes goes into a tizzy of panic when one climate scientist or another states that there is a possibility that the North Atlantic ocean circulation, of which the Gulf Stream is a major part, will slow down in coming years or even stop. Whether the scientists statements are measured or inflammatory the media invariably warns that this will plunge Britain and Europe into a new ice age, pictures of the icy shores of Labrador are shown, created film of English Channel ferries making their way through sea ice are broadcast… And so the circus continues year after year.

(Read more)

Dr. Judith Curry (Professor and former Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology) on her blog Climate etc:

What we are seeing in the high latitudes of the North Atlantic is natural variability, predominantly associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Based upon observational analyses, there is no sign of a slowdown in the Gulf Stream or the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.

About Greenland melting:

It’s not global warming, but rather, the Greenland ice sheet is melting from below, caused by a high heat flow from the mantle into the lithosphere, see:

Greenland ice melt due to geothermal heat flux

Greenland surprises

Greenland “melting” and media hype

P.S. For more examples of science fiction from the Arizona Daily Star, see my post: Do newspapers have a responsibility to check wire-service stories?

Greenland surprises

Ice-penetrating radar and drilling have led to some surprises in Greenland during the last few years. The continent is bowl-shaped, it has a massive canyon running down its middle, and it contains a large aquifer of liquid water beneath the ice.

NASA’s ice-penetrating radar is interpreted to show that the bedrock of the island is bowl-shaped as shown in the image below. That means that the continental ice sheet is in no danger of slipping into to ocean as some have proposed.


The radar imaging shows a large canyon running down the center of the island (see story from LiveScience.) The canyon starts in the middle of the island and heads northwest to the Petermann Glacier on the coast. The canyon is about 460 miles long, six miles wide, and up to 2,600 feet deep. This canyon must have been carved before the ice sheet formed 1.8 million years ago.

More recently, a giant aquifer of liquid water has been identified below the ice sheet (see story here). This discovery is based upon both NASA’s Operation Icebridge radar data and upon drilling. Researchers estimate that the aquifer covers about 27,000 square miles. The aquifer is apparently fed by meltwater that percolates from the surface during the summer. Researchers speculate that the thick ice and snow cover insulates it and keeps the aquifer from freezing.

But there is another possibility for why the water is not frozen. The Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, claims that “The Greenland ice sheet is melting from below, caused by a high heat flow from the mantle into the lithosphere.” “The Greenland lithosphere is 2.8 to 1.7 billion years old and is only about 70 to 80 kilometers thick under Central Greenland.”

Even though the continental ice sheet is confined by topography, there will still be calving from outlet glaciers in fjords along the coast. During the 2000s, there was much media hype about faster than normal calving of these glaciers, but research shows that the rate was similar to that in the 1930s and due to the North Atlantic Oscillation (source).

The photo below, which I took when flying over Greenland in June, 2012, shows a typical coastal glacier.

Greenland coast
Geologic evidence suggests that the Greenland ice sheet was at its smallest extent of the last 10,000 years from 3,000- to 5,000 years ago. It was also less extensive about 1,100 years ago when the Vikings colonized western Greenland during the Medieval Warm Period. They were driven out by the subsequent cooling of the “Little Ice Age.”

Greenland ice melt due to geothermal heat flux

Greenland-basal-ice-temps-300x269The Greenland ice sheet loses about 227 gigatonnes of ice per year and contributes about 0.7 millimeters to the currently observed mean sea level change of about 3 mm per year.  New research from the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, claims that “The Greenland ice sheet is melting from below, caused by a high heat flow from the mantle into the lithosphere.”  See press release here, and an enlargement of the graphic here.

The melting is quite variable spatially and reflects the relatively thin crust under Greenland. “The Greenland lithosphere is 2.8 to 1.7 billion years old and is only about 70 to 80 kilometers thick under Central Greenland.” Climate models fail to take this phenomenon into effect.

The German researchers say, “We have run the model over a simulated period of three million years, and taken into account measurements from ice cores and independent magnetic and seismic data. Our model calculations are in good agreement with the measurements. Both the thickness of the ice sheet as well as the temperature at its base are depicted very accurately.”

“The temperature at the base of the ice, and therefore the current dynamics of the Greenland ice sheet is the result of the interaction between the heat flow from the earth’s interior and the temperature changes associated with glacial cycles.”

Citation: Petrunin, A. G., Rogozhina, I., Vaughan, A. P. M., Kukkonen, I. T., Kaban, M. K., Koulakov, I. & Thomas, M., “Heat flux variations beneath central Greenland’s ice due to anomalously thin lithosphere”, Advance Online Publication, Nature Geoscience, 11. 08. 2013,

See also:

Greenland “melting” and media hype

The Arctic-Antarctic seesaw

Greenland “melting” and media hype

A press release from NASA titled “Satellites See Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt” set off a media frenzy and many blog articles reporting a great melting of 97% of the Greenland glacier surface. This announcement was based on a change in albedo, detected by satellites, which was interpreted as surficial melting. It is true that for a few hours between July 9 and 12, the surface temperatures crept barely above freezing. But, according to the Byrd Polar Research Center, changes in albedo can also be caused by temperature-driven snow metamorphism that reduces reflectivity by rounding the sharp ice crystal edges that scatter visible light and by increased snow impurities like carbonaceous soot from wildfires or diesel exhaust. We note that there have been many large, soot-creating wildfires lately.

Whatever the cause of the recent, sort-lived change in albedo, of greater concern is the news release itself with its hyped title and contradictory content. The ‘melting’ event was not “unprecedented.” Within the press release is this: “’Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,’” says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data.” Ice cores from another station (NEEM) showed similar melting in 1879 and 1935. It seems that the news release headline was purposely hyped to grab headlines, and so it did. This event does not bode well for NASA’s scientific reputation and shows that NASA is becoming much more political than scientific.

I’ve noticed that the term “unprecedented” is a favorite with global warming alarmists. It says much about NASA that they would write a self-contradictory press release, accompanied by a very misleading graphic, and also much about the credulous media (such as the Arizona Daily Star) which used the word “unprecedented” even though their own stories clearly showed it was not.

Below is a satellite image of Greenland from July 12, 2012. It does not appear to be melting. Also below is the temperature record for July from Summit Camp which sits atop the continental glacier at an elevation of 10,551 feet and a view from the live webcam at Summit Camp.




 See also

Greenland from 39000 feet  some photos I took of Greenland in June.

Siberian meteor crater records nearly 3 million years of climate history

About 3.6 million years ago a large meteor crashed into Siberia about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle.  The impact created an eleven-mile wide crater that became a lake.  Lake El’gygytgyn collected sediments which record the climate and environmental conditions.  Since this area was not eroded by continental glaciers, researchers were able to collect sediment cores that provide “a continuous high-resolution record from the Arctic spanning the past 2.8 million years.”

The cores record eight warm periods, four of which were investigated in detail: normal interglacials from 12,000 years ago to present, and one at about 125,000 years ago, and two “super” interglacials at 400,000 years ago and 1.1 million years ago during which the Arctic temperatures were as much as 5 C (9 F) warmer and 12 inches of annual rain wetter than normal interglacials.

The researchers suggest that Greenland’s ice sheet could not exist during the “super” interglacial periods.  Also, the researchers note that disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet occurred at the same time as the “super” interglacials suggesting that the warming events were global.

The paper abstract says: “Climate simulations show these extreme warm conditions are difficult to explain with greenhouse gas and astronomical forcing alone, implying the importance of amplifying feedbacks and far field influences. The timing of Arctic warming relative to West Antarctic Ice Sheet retreats implies strong inter-hemispheric climate connectivity.”

This research provides more physical evidence that extreme warming and climate fluctuations occur as part of natural variation.  This research implies: 1) The globe has been much warmer without human influence during multiple periods over the past 2.8 million years, 2) IPCC climate models are incapable of reproducing past temps and therefore unable to project future temps, and 3) global warming far exceeding alarmist IPCC projections has occurred several times in the past without triggering any “tipping points.”

More details and a video are available from here.  Additional comments are posted herehere (graphs), and here.

See also:

Ice Ages and Glacial Epochs

When Antarctica Freezes Over

A 2485-year record shows current warming is a natural cycle

How Mother Nature Fools Climate Scientists

Rare mineral records Antarctica temperature history

Norwegian research shows that current warming is not unusual

More evidence that current warming is not unusual

Ice Follies and Hiding the Decline

Ice loss minimal in Antarctica, Greenland, and Himalayas

Ice caps and glaciers wax and wane in response to many cycles. In this post I examine recent research on the state of the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps, and glaciers in the Himalayas.


Satellite measurement of glaciers in the Himalayas revealed that these mountains lost only one-tenth the ice between 2003 and 2010 compared to the loss reported in previous estimates. (Source). The Guardian (U.K.) reports that Bristol University glaciologist Prof Jonathan Bamber said: “The very unexpected result was the negligible mass loss from high mountain Asia, which is not significantly different from zero.”

This study period is very short and the results could be an artifact of the variable monsoons. The results could also reflect the difference between extrapolation from a few ground stations and more complete measurement by satellites. Satellite measurement is based on gravity, a method that is capable of giving a detailed picture. Gravity measurements are also used in mineral exploration.


A new surface mass balance (SMB) map of Antarctic shows no significant trend for the period 1979-2010. Note that this is a modeling study, but the authors claim it is in good agreement with 750 surface measuring stations. See full paper and graphics here.



During the mid-2000s, Greenland received much publicity because of the rapid melting of outlet glaciers in the western and southern part of the island. A new study shows that this melting is part of a cycle that produced rapid melting in the 1930s as well. The study authors attribute the melting “with a relatively strong influence of Atlantic water and a lower influence of polar water on the shelf off Greenland, as well as with warm summers and the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. (Source). The study was based on analysis of sedimentary deposits. Here is their graph of relative melting.

Rutgers University keeps track of snow cover around the world. Their data show as slight, but steadily increasing snow cover in Greenland since 1966. See graphs for the northern hemisphere as a whole here. There is a slightly increasing trend.

Two of the studies cited above give short-term glimpses of what is happening. They do not necessarily reflect long-term trends. But CAGW proponents and the press are quick to cite such studies when the trends go their way. And, even the short-term studies suggest that natural forces easily overwhelm any alleged influence of carbon dioxide emissions.

For the story on Sea ice see Arctic sea ice reaches seasonal low.

See also:

Ice Ages and Glacial Epochs

When Antarctica Freezes Over

Arctic tipping point, will there be an ice-free Arctic

More science fiction from the University of Arizona

The headline in the Arizona Daily Star reads: “UA study: Warming oceans will also speed ice melting.” The press release from the University of Arizona reads: “Warming ocean layers will undermine polar ice sheets.”

What is really interesting is the first two paragraphs of the press release:

Warming of the ocean’s subsurface layers will melt underwater portions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets faster than previously thought, according to new University of Arizona-led research. Such melting would increase the sea level more than already projected. [emphasis added.]

The research, based on 19 state-of-the-art climate models, proposes a new mechanism by which global warming will accelerate the melting of the great ice sheets during this century and the next.

So what is wrong with this? When water freezes, it expands, that is why ice floats; ice is less dense than an equal weight of liquid water. The researchers claim that melting of underwater ice will increase sea level. But the underwater ice is already displacing a certain volume of water. When the underwater ice melts, the resulting water will occupy a smaller volume than the ice did. How can that cause sea level to increase?

Will scientists clinging to the orthodoxy of the global warming religion say anything to get research grants?

Other research questions the basic premise of the UofA research: is the ocean warming?

See: More Evidence that Global Warming is a False Alarm: A Model Simulation of the last 40 Years of Deep Ocean Warming


Sea also:

Science Fiction from the University of Arizona?

Sea level rising?

Size matters in sea level studies

Sea Level Rise in the South Pacific – None

2010 the 9000th Warmest Year

The year 2010 was one of weather extremes due mainly to the transition from El Nino to La Nina. The year has been much touted as the warmest in the last 150 years or at least the warmest since it was cooler. But, looking at a longer perspective, the 10,500 years of our current interglacial period, 2010 was cooler than about 9,000 of those years.

That is the contention of geologist Dr. Don J. Easterbrook. “One of the best ways to look at long-term temperatures is with isotope data from the GISP2 Greenland ice core, from which temperatures for thousands of years can be determined.” By looking at the ratio of oxygen- 16 to oxygen-18, the temperatures at the time snow fell over the glaciers can be determined. “The age of such temperatures can be accurately measured from annual layers of accumulation of rock debris marking each summer’s melting of ice and concentration of rock debris on the glacier.”

Cuffey and Clow

See Easterbrook’s full article here.