Global warming alarmists are particularly desperate to claim that the Antarctic is "warming first" — as their computerized climate models have predicted. But there's a serious problem for alarmists. You see, satellite readings show Antarctic ice is increasing by 45 billion tons per year and the Antarctic sea ice is at a record large extent.
A recent scientific paper quoted in the New York Times claimed Mexican corals that died 120,000 years ago showed sea levels might have surged 10 feet in just 50 years! If so, such a sea-level rise must have involved a big ice-melt in Antarctica.
Beware, however. Global warming alarmists are particularly desperate to claim that the Antarctic is "warming first" —as the computerized climate models predicted the Polar Regions would. That's a problem. Satellite readings show the Antarctic ice is increasing by 45 billion tons per year and the Antarctic sea ice is at record-large extent.
Don Easterbrook, a geologist at Western Washington University, puts melting Antarctic ice into long-term perspective. Easterbrook says there's no way to date corals that died 120,000 years ago within an accuracy of 25–50 years. Dating within tens of thousands of years is more likely.
Secondly, he points out that the average temperature in the Antarctic is about 55 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. In order to melt any ice at all, you'd have to raise the temperature of the region by 87 degrees F just to get to the melting point of ice. To do this in 50 years is—incredible!
Third, notes Easterbrook, the volume of ice in the Antarctic is about 30 million cubic meters. To melt most of this ice in ten years, 2–3 million cubic meters would have had to melt—per year; and, remember, the average temperature is -55 degrees F. This is far beyond anything even the computer models have imagined.
It is certainly likely that ice melted 120,000 years ago during the very warm Eemian Warming. But what produced the heat for that melting? With no humans to blame, it must have been the sun. If the sun can vary that much in the geologically recent past, how can we be sure that it hasn't been the sun raising the earth's temperature in the past 150 years?
When the last Ice Age began to end, glaciers covered North America as far south as Ohio and New York's Long Island. Then the sun caused the planet to enter a warming phase. At its maximum warming rate, however, Easterbrook notes that the glaciers melted at about 1 meter per century.
Today, those huge glaciers are gone, and the oceans have already recovered about 400 feet of depth. Only two ice caps are left, with nearly all of it in the Antarctic and the rest in Greenland. Easterbrook does not see the potential for sea level rising faster than the one meter per century at the end of the last Ice Age—particularly with the slow, erratic warming that has occurred over the past 150 years.
John Stone of the University of Washington noted in a 2003 paper that glaciers and ice caps take thousands of years to melt because their surfaces reflect so much of the sun's heat away. He says that even the relatively vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet, at least 10,000 years past its most recent Ice Age, still has another 7,000 years worth of ice to melt. Another Little Ice Age—or a big one—is certain to come along before that process is complete.
Ian Allison of the Australian Antarctic Division says a recent meeting of the Antarctic Treaty Nations noted the South Pole had shown "significant cooling in recent decades," and that recent ice-core drilling and sea ice monitoring show no large-scale ice-melt over most of Antarctica.
Remember Stone's watchword—ice caps take thousands of years to melt because they deflect so much of the sun's heat away. It takes 80 times as much heat to melt a one-inch cube of ice as to raise the temperature of the water one degree C. Based on real-life physics, the Antarctica cannot melt rapidly.
Dennis T. Avery is an environmental economist, and a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years. Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421 or contact him using the email feedback link above.
Biography - Dennis T. Avery
Dennis T. Avery is a senior fellow for Hudson Institute in Washington, DC and the Director for Global Food Issues. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. Readers may write him at Post Office Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421.