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Large Ice Shelf Expected To Break From Antarctica

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the too-cool-for-school dept.

Earth 278

MollyB sends this excerpt from CNN: "A large ice shelf is 'imminently' close to breaking away from part of the Antarctic Peninsula, scientists said Friday. Satellite images released by the European Space Agency on Friday show new cracks in the Wilkins Ice Shelf where it connects to Charcot Island, a piece of land considered part of the peninsula. The cracks are quickly expanding, the ESA said. ... The Wilkins Ice Shelf — a large mass of floating ice — would still be connected to Latady Island, which is also part of the peninsula, and Alexander Island, which is not, said professor David Vaughan, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey. ... If the ice shelf breaks away from the peninsula, it will not cause a rise in sea level because it is already floating, scientists say. Some plants and animals may have to adapt to the collapse."

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If the ice melts (2, Insightful)

snsh (968808) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455347)

Will the ocean level rise, fall, or remain the same?

I'm betting it will rise a little bit because the salt concentration is different in the ice than in the ocean.

Re:If the ice melts (4, Funny)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455379)

Yeah, and once it melts its salt concentration will change!... or not.

Re:If the ice melts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27455855)

I wish I had mod points. That was snarky on so many levels -- I've been laughing for almost a minute straight.

Re:If the ice melts (3, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455481)

I think the salt will just mean the fresh melt forms a layer on top, you can test it youself with a glass of salty water and some ice cubes. However we have known for a while now that overall Antarticia is losing mass [nasa.gov] and that sea levels are already rising.

Quote from TFL: "The estimated mass loss was enough to raise global sea level about 1.2 millimeters (0.05 inches) during the survey period; about 13 percent of the overall observed sea level rise for the same period. The researchers found Antarctica's ice sheet decreased by 152 (plus or minus 80) cubic kilometers of ice annually between April 2002 and August 2005."

Greenland is also losing mass. [nasa.gov]

Re:If the ice melts (4, Interesting)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455691)

The researchers found Antarctica's ice sheet decreased by 152 (plus or minus 80) cubic kilometers of...

An error margin greater than 50%? Presuming that this is based on a typical 3 standard deviations...

...the chebyshev limit says there is still a whopping 11% chance that the actual value is outside the range...

I don't see any statistics experts mentioned in that link, so I gotta assume that we cannot expect a normally distributed error, that in fact they have no idea what the distribution might be.

Re:If the ice melts (2, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455837)

...the chebyshev limit says there is still a whopping 11% chance that the actual value is outside the range... I don't see any statistics experts mentioned in that link, so I gotta assume that we cannot expect a normally distributed error, that in fact they have no idea what the distribution might be.

There are some 50 published papers from the journals Nature [google.com.au] and Science [google.com.au] alone, when your finished teaching them stats maybe you can teach them risk management.

Re:If the ice melts (3, Funny)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456113)

One of the problems is that the peer reviewer is supposed to be an expert in the papers field (ex: climate science), rather than the methodology used (ex: statistics)

A popular example is Mann's flawed implementation of Principle Component Analysis, peer reviewed and then published by one of the very same journals that you are trying to use for your arguement-from-authority fallacy.

Lets examine what Mann was doing:

AlgorihmDescription.txt [nature.com]

Thats from one of the journals you cited, so you trust that it is an accurate summary of what he did, right?

I certainly do not think that an expert in EARTH SCIENCES should be doing that stuff without supervision from an expert in what he is actualy doing.

..and as it turns out, he screwed it all up fairly badly but got published anyways.

As far as that ice data... here we have an error margin thats over 50% of the magnitude of the estimated anomaly, and thats assuming they did things right to begin with.

I still don't see evidence that a statistics expert was involved. If you have some, please enlighten.

Re:If the ice melts (4, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456419)

Dude, stop dragging those red-herrings around, they stink.

If by pointing to Mann's reconstruction methods you mean to imply Mann, et al's hockey stick [realclimate.org] was debunked you are simply wrong...

The statisticians at the National Academies do not agree with you, or should I say their written testimony to the senate [nationalacademies.org] doesn't agree with you. Anyway they are probably the best statistical experts you can find in one place and are certainly not alone in their approval of Mann's work. Furthermore the minor problems they did point out were adressed by Mann in a later publication in Science which you can look up yourself, this is how science works, no?

The reason I point to that testimony is because it's the half-truth that many psuedo-skeptical, armchair statistitians base their opinions on, whether you in particular realise that or not is irrelevant.

Quote TFL: "The basic conclusion of the 1999 paper by Dr. Mann and his colleagues was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on icecaps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years
....[snip]...
We also question some of the statistical choices made in the original papers by Dr. Mann and his colleagues. However, our reservations with some aspects of the original papers by Mann et al. should not be construed as evidence that our committee does not believe that the climate is warming, and will continue to warm, as a result of human activities."


Why anyone would waste money and scientists time by having a senate enquiry on one particular graph is beyond me but whatever the reason it has served to further strengthen Mann's arguments.

As for the expert you keep demanding, that's not how science does things. Perhaps the NASA links are weak evidence by your standards because most people just rely on their reputation, but if you think they are wrong the onus is on you to provide evidence to the contrary. No matter how many papers I throw at you supporting NASA, you can continue to troll by demanding an individual expert claim an institutional publication which has nothing to do with the credibility of the evidence.

And since you obviously think you are good at stats why haven't you answered my question? - Under your stated assumptions, what's the probability that Antarctica and/or Greenland is NOT losing ice?

Re:If the ice melts (4, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456437)

Speaking of taking things out of context, note that psuedo-skeptics have reduced the entire enquiry down to "our committee does not believe that the climate is warming".

Re:If the ice melts (4, Informative)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456483)

If by pointing to Mann's reconstruction methods you mean to imply Mann, et al's hockey stick was debunked you are simply wrong...

I said exactly what I meant to say, and you are now trying to argue against something I didnt say, which is fine as long as you don't attribute your straw man arguement it to me.

Now.. don't attribute your strawman arguement to me. OK?

Furthermore the minor problems they did point out were adressed by Mann in a later publication in Science which you can look up yourself, this is how science works, no?

I am arguing that the veracity of the current peer review process in this field is so lacking that you do not get to appeal to its authority, that these climate experts have been known for a fact (which you admit) to use faulty statistical methods which slip right by the peer review process that you appealed to.

You don't get to use the "published in Nature" arguement as valid for their statistical value, since as I pointed out, experts in statistics do not do any reviewing of these papers prior to them being published.

This is quite simple.

Accept it, reject it.. I dont really care.. but do not reply with strawman arguements that you attribute to me as if you have some sort of refutation for my actual argument, when you apparently and obviously do not.

Re:If the ice melts (3, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456585)

Strawman: From your words "A popular example is Mann's flawed" I assumed the bit you were pointing out was a "known problem" from the testiomony and I still do. You did not actually state what argument of yours the link was supposed to be supporting?

But now your talking about gross incompetence on a decades long intensive reasearch effort that requires a massive conspiracy by the worlds scientific institutions to cover up? Or are you saying that these same institutions do not understand undergrad stats?

Either show me your contra-evidence that asserts Mann is incorrect, the ice caps are NOT melting, or the world is NOT getting warmer. If you can't do that then there are other sites such as freerepublic where you can be intellectualy dishonest.

Re:If the ice melts (2)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455889)

They're both NASA links. I think we can trust them to do their stats.

Re:If the ice melts (2, Interesting)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456189)

NASA?

The same NASA that went 7 years without ever noticing a problem with their methodology [sciam.com] that was detectable with an open source statistics package?

The discovery of the real problem was made almost immediately after NASA GISS finally revealed their methods for public scrutiny.

The same qualities that makes open source good are the same reasons that all of these scientists should open up their work. We re talking about publicly funded science here.. its not supposed to be secret.

They dont get a free pass just because they are NASA, especialy because they've fucked it up before.

Re:If the ice melts (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456205)

I hope you get moderated funny, because Christ man, you're talking about an organization that completely destroyed the very expensive Mars Climate Orbiter because they screwed up converting between imperial and metric.

Re:If the ice melts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27456335)

Or you could, you know, read the actual paper:

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1123785v1

Popular Science Article Doesn't Include Statistics. News at 11!

Re:If the ice melts (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455729)

The ocean level will not be affected by this, as referenced this article. The salt concentration is a lot different between the ice and the ocean, as the ice is composed of fresh water from precipitation. Like the majority of the Antarctic cap, it's already floating.

Re:If the ice melts (3, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456067)

In the case of Antarctica the majority of the area may be floating in the wintertime, in summer only the dwindling number of permanent ice shelves survive, the biggest of these being the Ross ice shelf. However regadless of season the majority of the volume is not floating.

Re:If the ice melts (1)

kholburn (625432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455791)

The ocean is rising but most of the rise is, and will be, because the water is expanding due to warming.

RTFA and RTFS (2, Informative)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456271)

Never mind the article, it's right there in the summary: "it will not cause a rise in sea level because it is already floating, scientists say"

Re:RTFA and RTFS (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456281)

Sorry, I misunderstood you ... still asleep.

Re:If the ice melts (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456329)

We are talking about shelf ice. Shelf ice is like an ice cube in your coke. If the ice melts the coke level will neither rise nor fall. And the same thing happens when you are playing with large ice cubes in an ocean. And the salt concentration has nothing to do with it.

As you might know. The density of ice is lower than the density of water. That why ice is floating. The ice displaces exactly that amount of water which has the same weight as the ice. When now the ice melts, the resulting water fits perfectly in the hole the ice occupied in the ocean.

And for your salt concentration. Where do you think does shelf ice come from? One hint, they are not glacier material.

Depicted in sci-fi novel Icefire (1)

KWTm (808824) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456385)

Slightly OT: an interesting doomsday scenario was predicted in the sci-fi thriller novel Icefire, by Reeves-Stevens [barnesandnoble.com] , where a rogue faction in the government of a large country detonates a bunch of bombs around the edge of the Wilkins ice shelf to detach it from land, and then detonate a big blast above it, in effect slapping the ice shelf into the Antarctic Ocean and creating a tsunami that threatens to wipe out the Pacific Rim --Hawaii, California, Japan, etc. It's a fast-paced novel about how the protagonists try to outrace the tsunami wave, which will take most of a day to get to the Pacific Rim, and how they try to warn various incredulous government organizations about how big the danger is, etc.

Oops, waitaminnit, that's the Ross Ice Shelf, not the Wilkins Ice Shelf. Sorry, wrong shelf.

Anyway, worth a read on your next flight that doesn't have WiFi to keep you occupied.

Geeks are dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27455349)

If tt's expected to, how is that news?

Re:Geeks are dumb (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455401)

Sorry about that, you're right, it's not. I was going to post about that large asteroid that's expected to hit the Atlantic ocean in a month, but I guess it would be too early to do it before it at least enters the atmosphere..

What, No Climate Change Reference? (1, Funny)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455359)

Ice shelves that don't calve would worry me more. But due to current media-promoted hysteria about "the environment", I think we should spend 100 trillion dollars to fix our planet. I mean, really, if we don't have a planet or environment, we're all dead. And think of the children!

"Some plants and animals may have to adapt"? Maybe we could collect them all and put them in an artificial environment so they can be safe from nature and man's evil nature. And then cuddle them - well, at least the ones that have comfy fur and cute eyes.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (0, Redundant)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455423)

"Some plants and animals may have to adapt"?

That is one of the more absurd quotes. The life of the shelf after it calves is likely to be long (maybe 10 or 20 years). Not damn long enough for anything to evolve though. Sure I guess things will have to adapt. Or, die.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27455731)

I'm sure "adapt" in this context means something more along the lines of "find other feeding grounds, etc." ...

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455471)

if we don't have a planet or environment, we're all dead.

indeed. That aside, climate change can be thought of as a diffuse property rights issue. Power plant produces CO2, CO2 warms planet and melts ice, sea levels rise, higher sea levels erode my property, who is responsible for the property damage?

"Some plants and animals may have to adapt"?

that is indeed true if the rate of diversification and adaptation are high enough or the rate of change is slow enough. However, there are several instances in biological history where this planet was made uninhabitable for 3/4 of all life or more including human beings had we existed then. There is a limit to how quickly an ecosystem can adapt to a change before permanent damage occurs. This certainly may not be a "fatal" event for humanity but in so far as destroying someone else's resource I don't see how any of that can possibly be justified ethically. You talk about the cost of doing something and you have a point- the current plans for dealing with climate change often involve costly measures but it certainly doesn't need to be the case. knocking out subsidies to inefficient, polluting industries would help the environment and save the government money. relying on a market based approach to solving the problem would be more efficient than a more planned economy could ever achieve. Don't be so quick to jump on the bandwagon that claims environmental protection can't coexist with sound economic policy- it's often the case that the waste caused in planned economies is even worse for the environment.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (2, Insightful)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455517)

it's often the case that the waste caused in planned economies is even worse for the environment.

Good point, nobody ever seems to mention the environmental horrors that existed/still exist in those failed planned economies you refer to.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455593)

Not trolling you, but I'm genuinely interested to know whether you think a global cap and trade treaty is a valid market based solution to AGW in particular, and pollution in general?

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (3, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455647)

I believe that if done correctly, cap and trade is a valid temporary solution however I think that the ultimate solution to the problem is to knock out any regulatory restrictions preventing a viable market based on the trade of carbon dioxide as a resource. It may be possible to start with a cap and trade system and ween the economy off of it and on to a market that stands completely on its own. The big problem as is being seen to an extent in Europe is that it is somewhat difficult to quantify CO2 offsets in many cases. Too many permits in the wild can also cause the system not to work as efficiently as it should however auctioning the credits may solve that problem. A green shift in taxation may also improve conditions. Shifting away from our current very complicated tax system toward one that both functions to discourage wasteful consumption and simplifies the tax code [eliminating many tax loopoles in the process] may actually offer an overall economic benefit outside of the environment its self.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455895)

Why not just make companies responsible for what they do? If a company pollutes a river, they have to pay to clean it up (full price), and if they knowingly pollute the river bring criminal charges as well. It would be more complicated to deal with air pollution since it would be impossible for one company to undo global warming, and we can't entirely stop giving off CO2, but forcing companies to at least do something to counteract the damage they do would be a good start.
Ideas for air pollution would be planting lots of trees, buying rainforest land and protecting it, funding research in how to clean up air pollution..

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456371)

I think a market based approach is not really working. Especially not when you think it through. One problem will be that companies will start CO2-sinks based on certain technologies. These technologies could be harmful for the environment as well.

The actual problem with the CO2-certificates is that they are not reduced every year and they get it for free. So there is no need to invest in other technologies, because you can get enough certificates.

A better thing would be to reduce them every year until there are no more CO2 certificates available on the planet then CO2 sink capacities exist.

However this make steel and aluminum very expensive. And think about that an average US citizen is causing aprox. 20t CO2/year and in Europe it is something between 15-6t CO2/year. While the fair share would be 1.5t CO2/year.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455671)

Are there some countries that are exempt from the global regulations?

Is CO2 actually a "pollutant", and how do we define pollution?

Has relatively recent human activity actually been proven to be the cause of something we can't even measure properly?

What percentage of the atmosphere does CO2 actually occupy and what is it's molecular weight?

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (4, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455721)

"Are there some countries that are exempt from the global regulations? Is CO2 actually a "pollutant", and how do we define pollution? Has relatively recent human activity actually been proven to be the cause of something we can't even measure properly? What percentage of the atmosphere does CO2 actually occupy and what is it's molecular weight?"

No, Yes, A resourse out of place, Two incorrect assumptions in the question render it meaningless, Very small, Irrelevant.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (1)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456183)

I beg to differ. Firstly, you're all assuming the ice shelf is collapsing because of Global Warming. This is in no way demonstrated, anywhere. It's entirely possible (and likely) that bits of ice-shelf collapse or break off every now and then in any case. When you consider the tiny amount of warming (now reversed) that has happened, you'll see how cretinous it is to make the assumption that man-made CO2 has caused it.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (2, Funny)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456493)

You can beg all you like but I won't answer your troll except to warn you that looking at my other posts will make your head explode.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (1)

alexibu (1071218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456543)

Imagine a large thin sheet of ice floating on water that has formed over thousands of years. The ice has formed slowly from immense glacial flows and some snow falling on top, the forces that constrain it are the floatation on the water and the force of gravity, which have been fairly constant during the formation, forcing the ice shelf to form at an elevation where gravity balances it's floatation force.

Suddenly (in ice shelf formation time scales) the sea level changes slightly. The two forces are out of balance, and the ice is bearing load. It breaks.

I made all the above up, have no specific knowledge of ice sheets but hope that it refutes your claim that it is cretinous to think CO2 could cause ice sheets to crack.

CO2 has caused sea level rise which has been accelerating lately : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_level_rise [wikipedia.org]

The warming reversed meme can be discarded by your reading this : http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/07/global-trends-and-enso/ [realclimate.org]

If you RTFA it says the ice shelf was mapped in the 1930s and has been constant size until very recently. We also know bits (this big) don't break off every now and then, where every now and then is less than the age of the ice currently in the shelf (which has been measured to be thousands of years old). Otherwise it would have already broken off.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456039)

Power plant produces CO2

You are responsible. Go switch your computer off now!

 

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27455531)

"Some plants and animals may have to adapt". Yeah? Many plants in Antarctica?

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27455777)

Ex Wikipedia:

"The continent of Antarctica itself has been too cold and dry to support virtually any vascular plants for millions of years, and its flora presently consists of around 250 lichens, 100 mosses, 25-30 liverworts, around 700 terrestrial and aquatic algal species. Two flowering plants, Deschampsia antarctica (Antarctic hair grass) and Colobanthus quitensis (Antarctic pearlwort), are found on the northern and western parts of the Antarctic Peninsula. Species of moss endemic to Antarctica include Grimmia antarctici, Schistidium antarctici, and Sarconeurum glaciale."

So yeah, probably a fair few.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (1)

f2x (1168695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455975)

Two flowering plants, Deschampsia antarctica (Antarctic hair grass) and Colobanthus quitensis (Antarctic pearlwort), are found on the northern and western parts of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Ouch. That just gave me a /0 error.

Reason:
The continent sits on the South pole. Every direction is north, and east/west is arbitrary!

Still, it's interesting info to know. I would never have thought flowering plants would grow down there. What pollinates them?

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (1)

Ragzouken (943900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456301)

The Antarctic peninsula does not sit exactly upon the south pole and so compass directions make perfect sense.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (3, Informative)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455801)

"Some plants and animals may have to adapt". Yeah? Many plants in Antarctica?

Apparently not a lot [wikipedia.org] , but still [wikipedia.org] some [wikipedia.org] ...

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? (0, Troll)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455617)

What, no manbearpig tag?

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? - Solved (4, Funny)

michaelhood (667393) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455705)

Fortunately, Antarctica is too big to fail - rest assured our representatives are hard at work on crafting a bailout.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? - Solved (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455759)

>>Fortunately, Antarctica is too big to fail - rest assured our representatives are hard at work on crafting a bailout.

I'll just return my Margaritaville.

That'll give us the trillions of dollars we need to bail out the oceans.

Re:What, No Climate Change Reference? - Solved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27456027)

Let us hope that this Vaughan will not be allowed to read poetry to us. Who knows, maybe we'll die from internal haemorrhaging or the Earth will get destroyed..

Yeah, but... (1)

Epsilon Moonshade (108853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455377)

What happens when it melts? I think a chunk of ice the size of CT would cause a -bit- of a rise in sea level, wouldn't you?

Re:Yeah, but... (3, Insightful)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455407)

Displacement. Go back to high school.

Re:Yeah, but... (4, Interesting)

Xeth (614132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455519)

Fresh water from ice and salt water in the oceans have different densities. The volume of salt water displaced by 1000 kg of frozen fresh water will be less than the volume that those same 1000 kg of ice occupy when melted, since the salt water is denser.

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455679)

Look at it another way. If I mix bricks with water it becomes more dense but the volume of water won't change.

Re:Yeah, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27455881)

Yeah, by about 4%. Congratufuckinglations, you want a medal for being a pointless pedant?

The fact of the matter is that the volume of ice doesn't change *much* from the volume and of liquid water. So ~1000 m^3 of ice will melt into ~1000 m^3 of liquid water.

Do you really think that 4% is going to do much to affect global climate change (or whatever they're calling it now)? No? Okay then, let's move on to actually solving the problem instead of debating units and already-settled-scientific-matter with only-the-most-elite-programmers-who-have-no-concept-of-real-units-and-their-use, mmmkay?

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

Epsilon Moonshade (108853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455545)

From TFA: (yes, I know this is /.)
"The Wilkins Ice Shelf -- a large mass of floating ice -- would still be connected to Latady Island, which is also part of the peninsula, and Alexander Island, which is not, said professor David Vaughan, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey."

I guess I just read this incorrectly, but it sounds like it's still connected to some land, which implies to me that not -all- of it is just floating as mentioned in the quote. An addition is an addition, no matter how small. I'm not saying it'll be flooding along coastal areas and all that, but will whatever amount of it that was previously supported by the connection to the rest of the ice shelf and the islands around it be significant in any way?

And thanks for the suggestion, but there's no need to be a dick about my high school learning. I do appreciate it, though - really, I do.

Re:Yeah, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27455633)

Very little of it is not floating, you're still an idiot for not grasping the entire picture.

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455997)

The point at which the ice meets the seabed is where the ice is no longer part of the ice shelf but is still part of the ice sheet. The amount of floating ice supported at one end by land and held up by tension is insignificant but it does prevent the sheet from floating away into warmer waters.

A thick sheet of ice will resist waves and bend with the tide rather than cracking. However if the temprature is warm enough to reduce the thickness, cracks are likely to appear at tension points near where the ice meets the land. Once cracks start to form the constant battering of waves and tides will break up the ice shelf well before it all melts.

The sudden collapse of ice shelves has been observed in the recent past, this one is behaving in a similar manner and is five degrees further south than previous observations. The loss of these ice shelves is also expected to speed up the flow of glaciers that they've been holding back for millenia.

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455415)

Not if it was already floating.

Re:Yeah, but... (2)

SuperMo0 (730560) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455421)

Well, this ice is already floating, according to the article. Just because it's floating by itself doesn't mean the sea level's going to rise around it.

Re:Yeah, but... (5, Informative)

pintpusher (854001) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455433)

ice that is floating is already displacing an amount of water equivalent to it's mass which has... the same volume as the volume of the ice once it's melted (remember that frozen water has a larger volume, lower density, than liquid water). Thus, melting ice that is already floating has zero effect on sea levels.

Re:Yeah, yeah but but... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27455507)

The catch is that the ice shelves slow down the ice behind them which is pushing into the sea.

That ice is on land and WILL affect sea levels when it starts moving forward into the sea a LOT faster.

Even worse, glacier motion is lubricated by water - so if there's already a lot more meltwater under the glaciers --- whoooooshhhhh (in slow motion anyway)

Re:Yeah, yeah but but... (0, Offtopic)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455751)

TWIAVBP, look it up. The "Think Globally, Act Locally" mantra ironically often causes well-meaning individuals to "act" on things they know little about as they are primed by "global" organizations whose main interest is self-perpetuation

Re:Yeah, yeah but but... (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455983)

And what is the volume of ice that is resting on land? None of the surface area figures I've seen for the Antarctic specify how much of the area is actual land and how much is ice over water.

Re:Yeah, yeah but but... (2, Funny)

this great guy (922511) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455987)

whoooooshhhhh (in slow motion anyway)

So you mean like: wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ooooooooooooooooooooooo ooooooooooooooooooooooooo OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ooooooooooooooooooooo ssssssssssssssssssssssss hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Re:Yeah, yeah but but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27456407)

Interestingly, the land ice exerts a gravitational force on the surrounding water. This causes the sea level to rise in the vicinity of the ice. If the land ice melts than the sea level will drop (locally at least).

Burn the Heretic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27455529)

How dare you question the word of the Gore-acle and Global Warming?

I mean "Climate Change", because it is awful tough to get people to buy off on warming when the planet is cooling. Yeah, our new "De-Politicized Science" is all about marketing.

Re:Burn the Heretic (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27455869)

planet is cooling

Citation needed

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

senorpoco (1396603) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455839)

But what does it do to the salt concentration? I am assuming the ice is largely freshwater.

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

xianthax (963773) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455447)

conn = 5,544 square miles, earth = 196,939,900 square miles of which 139,433,845 square miles is water...so even if it weren't already floating, your answer is no

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

xianthax (963773) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455451)

edit: yes i'm ignoring the entire volume vs 2d surface area discrepancy in this entire line of argument.

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455573)

Which just makes it more insignificant, ~600 cubic miles for the Wilkins ice shelf vs 329 million cubic miles for the oceans. The west antarctic ice shelf on the other hand is 700K cubic miles which is kind of significant.

Re:Yeah, but... (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455741)

Additionally ice has a high albedo so it tends to keep itself and the surrounding areas cool. Dark blue ocean absorbs more heat from the sun and stays warmer.

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455475)

the ice is floating in the ocean as it is. it is therefore displacing as much water as it possibly can. had it been siting on a continent somewhere and slid off into the ocean then you'd be correct.

Are you sure? (1)

RudeIota (1131331) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455575)

Unlike the Arctic (which is just frozen water), Antarctica is actually a continent.

Now -- I know I could be wrong -- but I always thought in order to be a continent, a land mass has to be... land? Am I wrong?

Re:Are you sure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27455769)

You're not wrong, but you're still an idiot who didn't read the RTFM. Antarctica is a continent, but the ice was floating off the continent.

Re:Are you sure? (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455835)

Unlike the Arctic (which is just frozen water), Antarctica is actually a continent.

Now -- I know I could be wrong -- but I always thought in order to be a continent, a land mass has to be... land? Am I wrong?

You're not wrong, but the GP's point was that this particular ice is already floating - it's "jutting out over the side" over the continent and is floating on water.

That said though, it's possible that the GP is missing the fact that although this ice is "mostly floating", it's entirely possible that it is at least in part being supported by the ice that it's connected to (which is sitting on land), which would mean two things:

  1. That breaking off it is somewhat expected if it gets weaker due to melting or whatever as the weight of it is now too much for the ice it's connected to to hold.
  2. That it WILL displace more water once it's broken away from the land ice as the water will now take up the weight that previously the land was supporting. In likelyhood, this is nowhere near as significant as ice that has fallen off land into the water, but it's still more than nothing.

What's in a Name (1, Interesting)

pilsner.urquell (734632) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455651)

I have a burning question. Why is it now called "Climate Change" and no longer "(Man Made) Global Warming"?

There never was a good war or a bad peace.
                -- Benjamin Franklin

Re:What's in a Name (4, Informative)

SuperMo0 (730560) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455669)

Because, to the general public, global warming is confusing. "They're saying we're making the world warmer, so how come I just saw on TV that we're having the coldest winter on record?"

Climate Change more accurately reflects that it's going out of whack in both directions.

Re:What's in a Name (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455807)

Or is it a question of "Global Warming/Climate Change" being blamed for every "odd" thing that happens in the world's weather? Append to that the "known fact" meme that this is caused by human activity. Since AGW is a fait accompli and such a huge issue, why are those that have questions about the theory, data collection methods, source code for the computer models, etc., shut down by the proponents of the theory?

Or is Global Warming a convenient boogeyman?

Re:What's in a Name (1)

SuperMo0 (730560) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455927)

Or is it a question of "Global Warming/Climate Change" being blamed for every "odd" thing that happens in the world's weather?

No, it's not. At least, not in this comment thread it isn't. The question was why the shift from the trend of calling it global warming to calling it climate change.

Please, adjust your knickers and find another place to Diggify.

Re:What's in a Name (1)

atraintocry (1183485) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455973)

Do you mean the increase in hurricane activity? That actually is caused in part by rising water surface temperatures.

There is NO increase in hurricane activity (1, Insightful)

slashbart (316113) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456033)

Here's a chart of the global hurricane index [fsu.edu] . It's the lowest it has been in the last 30 years!.
That is probably because the globe's ocean heatcontent is dropping [wattsupwiththat.com]

Re:There is NO increase in hurricane activity (0, Troll)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456081)

Sorry dude, the science is settled.

Re:What's in a Name (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456065)

Global Warming/Climate Change is either caused by humans or it is not.
Also, it is either harmful to humans or it is not.

If it is harmful to us, then it doesn't matter if we caused it, it merely matters if we can stop/prevent it.
If it is not harmful to us, and it is caused by us, then it's our responsibility, but not as important to us as if it were harmful.
If it is not harmful to us, and not caused by us, then the only reason to stop it is if we care enough about those species it does harm to use the resources needed to stop it.

So if it's harmful to us it doesn't matter if we caused it or not, and since it seems like it could be harmful (and the only way to find out for sure is to let it harm us), then it is in our best interests to try to stop it, to prevent harm to ourselves.

Re:What's in a Name (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456169)

Do you think that vehicles with 10 airbags are "safer"? Is 100% safety desireable or even achievable (remember the law of diminishing returns)?

All the coming disasters claimed by the alarmists are projected to happen only in 100 years or so. "Ah-ha!" you may say, "You don't care about the future and probably eat newborns and burn kittens for fuel as well, evil denier!"

I won't admit to eating newborns but the fireplace is nicely stoked, and the mewing is getting annoying. Maybe I'll move to penguins next time.

Perhaps you are the sort of person who says, "even if it* saves one life it'll be worth it." *Whatever "it" may popularly be today with the crusading do-what-I-say crowd.

Re:What's in a Name (1)

FooGoo (98336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455845)

I have a burning question. Why is it now called "Climate Change" and no longer "(Man Made) Global Warming"?

I wonder why it's just not called "the weather" anymore.

Re:What's in a Name (4, Insightful)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455861)

Why is it now called "Climate Change" and no longer "(Man Made) Global Warming"? [emphasis mine]

It hasn't been called "Global Warming" by anyone doing real research in a VERY long time. The mainstream continued to say "Global Warming" for a long time after researchers had stopped using the term, and unfortunately the mainstream didn't catch on until after it became as political as it has, making a lot of the people sceptical of it think that calling it "Climate Change" is a weasel attempt at making it more popular - this couldn't be further from the truth.

As the other replier pointed out, "Climate Change" is simply a more accurate and less confusing name. It DOES amount to the same thing in the long term and when you look at global scales, but to avoid people saying "it's colder where I am right now, so Global Warming is a myth", "Climate Change" is more sensible.

Re:What's in a Name (2, Interesting)

mvdwege (243851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456457)

Because the mean temperature of the entire globe is rising, it used to be called Global Warming. As more study was thrown at it, side effects that a mean rise in global temperature was found to create were a bigger spread between maxima and minima, effects on ocean currents, and possibly effects on hurricane formation and migration patterns. So Global Warming as a description just didn't cover the entire range of phenomena anymore.

And as pointed out by others, this change in actual scientific terminology is not recent.

Mart

Glaciologist (5, Funny)

Centurix (249778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455657)

That's a pretty cool job.

ah, that's better.

Re:Glaciologist (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456223)

Glaciologist sounds like a good job for someone who's not quick-witted.

Global Warming Is A Hoax (5, Funny)

KronosReaver (932860) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455683)

Global Warming due to industry and emissions is a hoax...

The truth is the planet keeps getting warmer the closer we get to Hell.

Re:Global Warming Is A Hoax (2, Insightful)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455891)

Is it sad that in this day and age it's entirely possible the parent ISN'T intended as a joke? (it's moderated "Funny" and I assume that was the intention, but it's not so easy to tell any more.)

Re:Global Warming Is A Hoax (0, Flamebait)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456453)

Actually, it isn't a joke. People who believe in the AGW religion have a tendency, much like Bronze age fantasists, to assign causes to any and every natural event. I even read an article about Global Warming causing earth quakes. People are all too willing to suspend their rationality in the face of self-proclaimed experts (Hansen, Mann, Gore).

This is news? (0, Troll)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455735)

BREAKING: rain falls, wind blows, sun rises, Star Wars sucks now. Natural processes are not really news.

Re:This is news? (5, Insightful)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455873)

Natural processes are not really news.

Regardless of your opinions about the cause of it, I beg to differ that natural processes are not news. Hurricanes in south-eastern US, flooding in India, bushfires in Australia, large rocks hurtling through space that might hit us and wipe out all life on earth - all of these are things are "natural processes", but always make the news every time, and quite rightly so.

Re:This is news? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455879)

That last one was far from a natural process. It took lots of effort.

Re:This is news? (0)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456331)

(GenericForm(X)!=news therefore X!=news) = FALSE

Ice Shelf Questions?? (1)

Amigori (177092) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456023)

I have 2 questions.

According to TFA, the Wilkins Ice Shelf has lost 1,800 km^2 of ice in the past year. This [nasa.gov] article states that the ice shelf is 200-250m thick. This gives volume lost of 360,000 km^3 to 450,000 km^3; 2000m*900m*200m, 2000m*900m*250m (easy numbers). Remaining area = (1800/.14)-1800 = 11057 km^2.

First question. Is it possible that over time (think glacial timeframe, not human timeframe) that the remaining 11,057 km^2 will rebuild the lost volume? How long is this process? If I remember correctly, Antarctica is a rather dry place regardless of the amount of ice and snow seen in pictures. This would require 32.5m to 40.6m of new packed snowfall/ice to replace what broken off in the past year; 360,000/11,057 = 32.5m, 450,000/11,057 = 40.6m.

Second question. What is the air and surface temperature impact of the hole in the ozone layer? link [wikipedia.org] . Would the increased UV and microwave radiation exposure, especially in the Antarctic summer months, more directly impact surface temperature than global warming?

The ice bridge is only 2 km! (3, Interesting)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456025)

It is hard to get a sense for the scale and the magnitude from the article's pictures. So, I looked it up on Google Earth.

That "ice bridge" protecting the Wilkins Ice shelf is narrow, only about 2 km wide, or slightly more than mile. And it is that which is breaking up. The floating ice area behind it (i.e. to the east) is huge, about 100x100 km!

Once that bridge is broken, sea currents may more easily flush that ice into the high seas. And, what the effects will be then, we don't know I guess.

.

60 km long and 3 km wide (2, Informative)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456047)

I remeasured it, the ice bridge is about 60 km long and 3 km wide at its waist.

Ecological disaster awaiting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27456291)

Imagine if Florida is flooded by rising sea water? All the false teeth and hair pieces would devastate the Atlantic Ocean. I mean Polygrip and Vicks Vapor Rub can't be good for fish. Polyester suits and Golf Balls have to have a bad effect as well. Add in all the Cocaine and pot and you wind up with a lot of stoned fish choking to death on bad hair pieces. Think of the children hell, think of the fish. The picture of a fish coughing up bingo chips is enough to bring tears to my eyes.

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