Dishonest Headline

Not by Fire but by Ice



 Updated 17 March 2006      

Dishonest Headline

Polar ice sheets show net loss,” says the headline. However, if you take time
to read the full article, you may come away with a totally different conclusion.

According to an article published on BBC online (9 Mar 06), melting glaciers are
adding 20 billion tons of water to the oceans each year. The discovery came after
a team headed by Dr H. Jay Zwally of Nasa analyzed satellite and aircraft data. 

“The survey documents extensive thinning of the West Antarctic ice shelves,” the
article says, “but a thickening in the East of the continent, though not by as much as
some other studies have shown.”

         What the article fails to mention is that West Antarctica is only 
         one tenth the size of East Antarctica . In other words, the ice is
         growing thicker across 90% of Antarctica .

The study also shows, the article continues, that the interior of Greenland is gaining
mass due to increased snowfall, but the edges are getting thinner.

         Read that again. The interior of the Greenland Ice Sheet is gaining
         mass, not losing mass.

But rising temperatures could have the opposite effect at the edges of both
landmasses, the story says, causing rates of melting to increase.

         It doesn’t say that it is having the opposite effect, just that it could.
         Big difference.

"A race is going on in Greenland between these competing forces of snow
build-up in the interior and ice loss on the edges," explained Dr Zwally.

"But we don't know how long they will be approximately in balance with each
other, or if that balance has already tipped in favour of the recently accelerating
outflow from glaciers."

         "We don’t know,” says Zwally. Hardly a definitive statement.

 "The study indicates that the contribution of the ice sheets to sea-level rise during
the decade studied was much smaller than expected,” said Zwally, “just two
percent of the recent increase of nearly three millimeters a year."

         Sea levels are rising by less than three millimeters per year. 
         That's about 1/10th of an inch. At that rate, it would take 100 
         years for sea levels to rise 10 inches. 

         But remember, Zwally says that only two percent of that increase
         comes from melting glaciers. (Apparently 20 billion tons is not all 
         that much when you look at the size of the world’s oceans.)

         According to my calculations, two percent of 10 inches works out 
         to two inches of sea level rise every thousand years. I don’t think I’ll
         stay awake nights worrying about this.

         Actually, considering that sea levels have  risen some 370 feet 
         (121 meters) since the end of the last ice age ( 3.7 feet per 100 years),
          it would appear that the trend is reversing.

         In fact, with the ice build-up in East Antarctica , I think sea levels 
         are already beginning to fall. And I’m not alone in this. A group of
         scientists under the leadership of Professor Nils Axel Morner has 
         found that sea levels in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean have been
        falling for the past 30 years. (Global and Planetary Change, 
        Vol 40: 177-182, 2004)


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Expanding Glaciers