Holy Ice Sheet, Boltman!

Yesterday Andrew Bolt ran a story where he disputes a story in The Age that says:

Up to one-third of all Antarctic sea ice is likely to melt by the end of the century, seriously contributing to dangerous sea level rises, updated scientific modelling on global warming shows.

Now Andrew is technically correct, the melting of sea-ice does not in itself cause rising sea-levels- but he misses the point. The point about sea levels rising is because of the melting of the land-based ice. The sea-based ice works as a stopper for the glaciers, and without them the glacier ice will slip into the sea faster. Some of these glaciers are up to 300 metres thick.

Later in his article Bolt says that “even sea ice in the Arctic has failed to melt as predicted”. This is despite the story that has emerged from Antartica:

AN ICE wall damming the endangered Wilkins ice shelf against the Antarctic Peninsula has shattered, just as scientific alarms ring out about the region’s rapid warming.

Who to believe?

52 Responses

  1. Now Andrew is technically correct, the melting of sea-ice does not in itself cause rising sea-levels

    There’s at least some debate about that. For example:

    The common misconception that floating ice won’t increase sea level when it melts occurs because the difference in density between fresh water and salt water is not taken into consideration. Archimedes’ Principle states that an object immersed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces.

    However, Noerdlinger notes that because freshwater is not as dense as saltwater, freshwater actually has greater volume than an equivalent weight of saltwater. Thus, when freshwater ice melts in the ocean, it contributes a greater volume of melt water than it originally displaced.

    Here’s the link including the observable experiment.


  2. I don’t find Bolt useful…as the water levels rise this Bolt will become useless for even the most ardent of believers :


  3. N5

    I did notice some debate on that, but that is only a small amount of volume – not the amounts that will be released into the sea when/if the land based ice melts.

  4. joni

    This is one thing that really shits me about the whole global warming debate. Some of the most vocal people against climate change have absolutely no training in the field of climatology or indeed any science at all; yet hese people seem to feel qualified to reject the findings of peer reviewed journal articles and the views of qualified scientists on the basis of some ‘common sense ❓ ‘ view of the world or just a belief that it can’t be right.

    These same people call those of us who defer to the views of those more qualified as being members of some ‘global warming church’ and that this belief in scientific opinion is somehow misplaced. Talk about hypocrisy – at least we place our trust in people trained to interpret the research not some vague notion of what should or should be occuring. An no this isn’t the same as church goers trusting the words of a priest – in the case of a priest, there are multiple interpretations of the bible and koran which are all uin conflict – in the case of AGW, the material is peer reviewed and debated and we have a consensus (or at least majority) view.

    I’m all for skepticism among scientists and further research into whether or not AGW is real and the extent of human influence but Bolt should not be part of this debate unless he is equally willing to publicise all articles regarding this without his own untrained and unqualified slant on results.

  5. joni, on April 7th, 2009 at 8:43 am Said:

    I did notice some debate on that, but that is only a small amount of volume – not the amounts that will be released into the sea when/if the land based ice melts

    I accept that it’s the “tip of the iceberg”. But I am not quite prepared to let that (minor) point be lost completely.

    Noerdlinger demonstrates that melt water from sea ice and floating ice shelves could add 2.6% more water to the ocean than the water displaced by the ice, or the equivalent of approximately 4 centimeters (1.57 inches) of sea-level rise.

    2.6% shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. And besides ridicule of the Bolta no matter how great is simply never enough. Lol.

  6. Andrew Bolt talking about science is akin to Shane MacGowan talking about dental health and the benefits of flossing.

  7. What dave55 said, in spades.

    Bolt’s dismissals of AGW, Teh Left, Anything Green or Obama/Rudd related are reflexive, trite & entirely predictable.
    He has backed himself into an ideological corner on all of his pet whines & I seriously doubt that anyone outside of his metronomic fanclub gives much credence to his desperate crusading.

    Untrained & unqualified indeed.

  8. Dave55, on April 7th, 2009 at 8:47 am Said:

    on the basis of some ‘common sense ‘ view of

    I doubt very much that denialism or indeed scepticism is now the prevailing ‘common sense’. Certainly the published polls and election results suggest the average punter is now a ‘believer’ in AGW. It mightn’t have been the ‘common sense’ of 20 years ago but ‘common sense’ changes over time.

    I say ‘believer’ because the average punter, myself included, lacks the expertise to evaluate the scientific findings. Thus we have ‘faith’ in what the best and brightest scientists tells us. To operate otherwise is somewhat risky.

  9. I remain a long way from being convinced by the arguments of the proponents of AGW theory. One of the reasons is the repetition of demonstrable falsehoods. I doubt that The Age had Noerdlinger’s extra 2% volume in mind when they stated that melting sea ice would seriously contribute to sea level rises. I don’t agree with Dave55 (I think) when he says that we should simply defer to those more qualified. Those so qualified ought to not just say it, but demonstrate it, without the exaggerations and falsehoods, to a punter like me who is expected to change his life around, and contribute more of my hard earned in the so called “solutions”. And it’s the falsehoods and exaggerations which lead this punter to conclude that it might just be all bullshit.

    As Tony once said, when those who say it’s a crisis start behaving as though it’s a crisis, I might start believing it’s a crisis.

  10. joni

    Your blog starts with “Yesterday Andrew Bolt”

    Enough for me to dismiss the rantings immediately.

  11. Shane – I know, that alone would scare most away.

    Sowwy. 😦

  12. N5

    I deliberately put in the exclamation marks and ❓ because I feel the same way as you, and yet this is what some skeptics continue to say – ie, it’s doesn’t make sense that a change in such a miniscule part of the atmosphere can change the temperature so much! I like to compare it to say arsenic – a slight increase over time has significant cumulative effects – the amounts we are talking about though are similar to the ppm we are talking about with regards to CO2.

  13. Re the analogy of Climate Change sceptics vs religious faith (ref: Dave55). Also God never caused the waters to rise and cover the earth..oh hang on, I think that He did that once 😉

  14. Dave I copied your phrase including the (?) mark but it didn’t reproduce and I don’t know how to solve that problem. Advice appreciated.

    As for the ‘sceptics’ who prefer to ‘make up their own minds’ I find it doesn’t usually extend to medical diagnosis, which is often only the opinion of one (1) doctor.

  15. Who to believe?

    Not Andy Bolt. Does he have any credibility, on anything?

  16. Pure Poison has a entry on this too, interesting to note in one of the comments there’s a link http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2007/1867444.htm#transcript (apologies for not linking properly, I fail at that) to an interview with an interesting comment from Bolt where he says he’s pretty sure there has been global warming, he’s just not sure how much.

    IMO, regardless of whether or not you believe climate change is real, its a risk that’s too great to ignore. It’d be like me jumping off the tenth floor of a building cos I heard about this one guy who didn’t break every bone in his body and die….

  17. Nature 5, on April 7th, 2009 at 8:39 am

    What does Archimedes say about land masses relieved of the weights of their freshwater ices floating on magma? 😉

  18. James,

    Lets just think about what you are saying – that the science should be questioned because some claims have been shown (through science I might add) to be overstated. The scientific community through the scientific process move forward in the scientific knowledge by questioning these ssort of results; while some of the extreme comments of the past have now been refuted, the basic premise that human emissions of CO2 are influencing the climate have not. Most, if not all of the claims by most of the skeptics have been well and truely debunked and yet the skeptics cling to these ‘outragous (and provenly false) claims; why then are the scientists asserting evidence for AGW more questionable in their authority than the skeptics – the logic simply doesn’t follow?

    I think the problem that skeptics have with AGW claims isn’t so much with the scientists but with journalists accentuating the more extreme views of the scientists.

    I will add that there are a significant number of scientitsts that now downplay their concerns due to the berating they get from the skeptics. The consensus view relected in the IPCC reports reflects pretty much the central view – there are scientific studies and findings that suggest much more extreme results. Privately, many climate scientists hold greater fears than are reported in the public, almost all hope to hell they are wrong.

  19. N5

    copying smileys etc doesn’t work – you have to redo them if you want them in your quote.

    I wasn’t critical of the non-copying of the q mark it was just that your comment seemed to suggest that my ‘common sense’ comment implied that there was some in the skeptics argument – I just wanted to make it clear that there wasn’t a lot of sense to it when examined closely.

  20. Dave55, on April 7th, 2009 at 10:25 am Said

    How do you insert or redo same?

    Legion, on April 7th, 2009 at 10:15 am Said:

    What does Archimedes say about land masses relieved of the weights of their freshwater ices floating on magma

    Given that Archimedes was dead by 212 BC, he in all probability said nothing. Lol. But as to you serious point about his Principle and its application, I concede that, while the shifting the weight from one part of the earth to another might have no overall consequence, I simply have no expertise in the area of the geophysical sciences or associated fields.

  21. Nature 5, on April 7th, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Dang, I was wondering if Bolt would notice if his backyard was displaced by a conical projection spewing fire and brimstone, thence have a tectonic shift in his worldview. 😉

  22. Dave55, one of the problems is the use of the term “consensus view”. As you point out, even amongst the proponents of the theory, there isn’t a consensus. The IPCC reports are at best a compromise of a number of opinions, and appear to simply dismiss the opinions of those on the “no” side of the debate, and yes there remains a healthy debate.

    This theory was sold to the world in a “documentary” by a former aspirant to the US Presidency on the basis of two broadly matching graphs. Those graphs no longer match. I know the theory was around before that, but that’s when it gained popular momentum.

    Once it was pointed out that the rises in CO2 followed the rises in temperature, they started to talk about feedback, and that human caused CO2 was the main contributing factor in an ever accelerating spiral. Well the spiral isn’t eventuating. The temperature should be increasing at an ever accelerating rate and it isn’t.

    At the end of the day, I guess I’ll have to go with the flow, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to contribute taxes which have been thoroughly wasted. It won’t be the first time I’ve had to change my habits for what I consider to be no good purpose. I’m fucked if I can understand why last year I had to pay an extra $50 to fill my car each week. That $2500 could have been quite handy. I’m blowed if I can get why so much more of my money is spent on a desalination plant which is equally as environmentally destructive as a new dam would be, for far greater cost, for far less output. I’m stuffed if I can see how $900 and some pink batts are going to save this country from recession, and Harvey Norman get to run ads telling people to spend their money on stuff which as far as I can tell is made in Asia. I’m stuffed if I can understand why, if this environmental crisis is so bad, then Penny Wong’s office needs to fly over from Italy reams of paper on which to print the material relating to the crisis just because that paper is of a particular “quality”. Finally, I’m buggered if I can understand why if this problem is so bad we don’t simply use the raw material we have to build a bunch of nuclear power stations and diversify our energy sources. Shit, there’s one on every street corner in Europe!

    I like eating beef, I like driving my 4WD in the bush, I like towing my little yacht to places, I like staying cool in Summer and warm in Winter and if I’m going to have to change all of that, I’d like a little better than “you must believe because “we” say so”.

    I’m sorry, for all of their words, the actions of governments tell me that they simply do NOT believe that this is that much of a crisis.

  23. Nature 5, on April 7th, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Seriously, though, isostatic rebound is also something to consider, even if the involved processes are both complex and wide-ranging (personally, I like the wacknut theory that a buoyant Arctic and Antarctic act as levers to rotationally shear the entire crust loose, if I’m building up an unlikely Apocalyptic scenario…’give me a long enough lever, and I will move the world’).

  24. Legion, on April 7th, 2009 at 11:17 am Said:

    Thanks for the link. I too found it very interesting and as you say the processes “are both complex and wide-ranging”.

    May I suggest that you provide the Bolta with the link so that he in his own simplistic way can reduce the ‘complexity’ for his unique set of flying monkeys.

  25. N5

    How do you insert or redo same?

    Hmm – good point maybe smileys don’t work within block quotes?


    🙂 or no smiley

    Test 2

    ❓ or no ?

  26. Well that was an epic fail through success …

    N5, just delete the smiley when you cut and paste the text for the block quote and retype it in. That should work. I don’t think it’s any biggy if a blockquote doesn’t include a smiley though – unless it makes the quote out of context.

    ❓ is : ? : without the spaces

  27. “retype it in.” That’s my very, very basic problem. I don’t know where to find let alone insert smileys.

    Step by step please. Thanks.

  28. Nature it’s at: http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Smilies

    Eg. bug eyes is eightO. If you type 😯 it’s (hope that it works…).

    Good grief, me giving lessons..I am certain that Joni and Reb will be having a laugh.

  29. Thanks Min. 🙂

  30. Most excellent work Min.

  31. Thank you joni. It’s easy when you know how.

    Now where were we. I phone call from youngest (the scientist the PhD one at UQ) and she had read Bolt’s blog. Says that Bolt’s opinion isn’t worth considering..mentioned other problems such as minus the ice shields then we also have additional problems..reflection of the sun’s rays and such.

    And apologies I cannot add to above as daughter will be in Canberra over Easter.

  32. James of North Melbourne, on April 7th, 2009 at 11:04 am Said:

    Dave55, one of the problems is the use of the term “consensus view”.

    Just to add some spice to the pot James, consensus view does not necessarily mean a 100% agreement from all members of a particular group, but rather a majority of opinion. I would argue that a majority of active climatologists are in agreement over this issue.

    There are dissenters, but that is always going to happen with a theory, particularly one as involved as climate change.

    But to argue that such a large percentage of scientists in agreement does not reflect a consensus is perhaps obfuscating the actual result a bit.

  33. Dave55,

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

    I suppose so Mr. Gore….How many climatologist jobs, academic grants, industries etcetera are being created/funded by this “Theory”? Unfortunately, such a statement applies to both sides of this argument……Right now, AGW proponents have a larger share of the job market than the skeptics, wouldn’t you say?

  34. Sparta,

    I assume that’s a quote from Gore, I definitely didn’t say it and wouldn’t use it in support of an argument debunking climate skeptics claims or indeed any scientists claims unless the science itself was crap and it was obvious that the source of funding led to bias. Attacking a scientist based on the source of funding alone runs the risk of overlooking the science.

    I also think that this argument when run by the skeptics misses the point completely when it comes to science. This is usually because the reverse argument (ie against AGW advocates) is run by non-scientists. Sure some scientists are under pressure to get funding and doing work in climate science is a good way to get funding at the moment, but to suggest that this leads to distortion of the results demonstrates a misunderstanding of the peer review process and scientific methodology generally.

    The argument also overlooks the fact that it has been in the interests of some Governments (the previous US one for instance) to actually debunk the theory of climate change. While scientists like to keep working, they also like the glory of finding something new. I suspect there are a lot of scientists out there who would love to disprove AGW theory for the glory attached to it and the relief that we aren’t all stuffed; unfortunately for them, the more they try, they more and more find support for the theory.

  35. That’s and interesting assessment there Dave but I have one simple question that never seems to get answered by either AGW proponents or for that matter ever really addressed by the “scientists”.

    “Why should any rational person think that recent warming trends are not simply cyclic since the planet has seen many such fluctuations in temperature (many much more dramatic) throughout its history without the benefit of man?”

  36. Sparta

    I think the point that the scientists are making is that the speed of the change is what is indicating that it is not natural – that the warming is a result of the change in the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere.

  37. “Why should any rational person think that recent warming trends are not simply cyclic since the planet has seen many such fluctuations in temperature (many much more dramatic) throughout its history without the benefit of man?”

    The simple answer is that this warming is not consistent with past cycles. No one as far as I know disputes the fact that the climate goes through warming and cooling trends, nor than CO2 levels have been higher in the past. The distinction here is that this warming trend and increase in CO2 is different to those ones and the key difference is the human induced rises in CO2 (as far as I can tell, no one, not even the skeptics dispute that CO2 increases are attributable to humans). The big Q is whether these rises of a known greenhouse gas are affecting the global temperature – the skeptics say no, the scientists say most probably they are are major factor, even having regard to solar cycles etc.

  38. Sparta

    The other thing which needs to be considered is that the warming trend, and, in particular, the most recent spike, came after the theory of AGW was formulated.

    The theory derived from research into what could be the effect of all the excess pollution we were putting into the atmosphere. The first was that there would be climate change, that swayed from cooling to warming as their knowledge and understanding grew. Since at least the early eighties, it has been generally accepted by proponents of climate change that warming would be a result. It may have been longer, I am only going on my personal recollection.

    Perhaps it is only coincidence that the weather decided to support their findings?

  39. Up to one-third of all Antarctic sea ice is likely to melt by the end of the century, seriously contributing to dangerous sea level rises, updated scientific modelling on global warming shows.

    The modelling predicts melting, yet observations of actual sea ice extent show the exact opposite:

    According to the University of Illinois, Antarctic sea ice area is nearly 30% above normal and the anomaly has reached 1,000,000 km2. You could almost fit Texas and California (or 250 Rhode Islands) inside Antarctica’s excess sea ice.

    According to NSIDC, over the last 30 years Antarctic sea ice extent has been growing at a rate of nearly 5% per decade, and set a record maximum last year.

    As Joni rightly asks:

    Who to believe?

  40. “Who to believe?”

    Oh, I think you need to be sceptical about the claims made by both AGW proponents and those who disagree with them.

    I also believe, however, that insurance is a prudent investment AND that whether climate change is real or not the future of energy generation will be dependent on renewable resources so we may as well start working on it now. Lets face it, there is only so much stuff that can be dug up and ‘burnt’ before it runs out.

  41. Tony

    I may be wrong, but the issue is the total amount of sea-ice, not the km2 size of the ice. The ice that is being meassured in the study quoted is the total km2 (or size).

    It is the fact that the ice is going to be much thinner, which means that it no longer contains the same amount of water.

    Additionally, AGW does not say that everywhere is going to get hotter – some areas will get colder. And I think they are saying that soon the northwest passage in the Artic will be totally open due to the lack of sea ice – perhaps even to the North Pole.

  42. Joni, that last para is another thing I just don’t get. How does an average warming trend result in places getting colder?

  43. I don’t much understand it but here is a link (and resident scientist (dau) is off Morris Dancing in Canberra: http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1063435.html

    A powerful ocean current that drives the Gulf Stream and warms temperatures in much of northwestern Europe has weakened dramatically in recent years. That’s the conclusion of British scientists, who say that if the trend continues, the continent could soon be set for much colder weather — paradoxically because of global warming.

  44. James of North Melbourne, on April 9th, 2009 at 10:47 am

    C’mon James, didn’t you see that scientific documentary ‘The Day Afetr Tomorrow’??

  45. Won’t someone think of the penguins?

  46. A scientist who tracks levels of ice and snow in the Arctic Ocean told CNSNews.com Monday that there is a “correlation” between the receding ice in the Arctic Sea and man-made global warming caused by the greenhouse effect.

    But Dr. Walter Meier, a cryosphere scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colo., admits he can’t prove that the link is cause-and-effect.


    CNSNews.com posed a question to Meier: “Given the fact that Arctic sea ice has changed many times in the past, how is it possible to know scientifically whether the melting is due to so-called man-made ‘global warming’ or to a natural cyclical phenomenon?”

    Meier said he thinks there is a link between higher temperatures and increased greenhouse gases. But he admitted that sea ice has changed a lot through time and his understanding of long-term ice change is limited “somewhat” to century-old data….

  47. Tony re penguins….ROFL – very good.

    Actually make that ROIL (Roll On Ice Laughing)

  48. there is only so much stuff that can be dug up and ‘burnt’ before it runs out.

    Huh, on April 9th, 2009 at 10:35 am Said:

    So what’s there to wory about ?

    The faster the bloody ice melts the faster the Antarctic land mass will be exposed and therefore it can only get cheaper and cheaper to go there and drill for more oil !

  49. And won’t someone think of the Walruses?!?!?!

  50. And I think they are saying that soon the northwest passage in the Artic will be totally open due to the lack of sea ice – perhaps even to the North Pole.

    Not sure about it ever being open all the way to the North Pole, but the Northwest Passage was navigated by ship as long ago as 1905:

    The North West Passage was done. My boyhood dream – at that moment it was accomplished. A strange feeling welled up in my throat; I was somewhat over-strained and worn – it was weakness in me – but I felt tears in my eyes. ‘Vessel in sight’ … Vessel in sight.

  51. Spam retrieval needed, aisle five.

  52. Spam retrieved from aisle five.

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