Scientists Criticize News Story on Antarctic Ice Loss

Published March 26, 2008

Wire services March 25 are distributing a story alleging that a potential calving of the Wilkins Ice Shelf is the latest sign of global warming’s impact on Antarctica.

Scientists point out, however, that the vast majority of Antarctica is in a decades-long cold spell, and that the vast majority of Antarctic and the Southern Ocean are experiencing accumulating rather than receding ice. Any loss of ice from the Wilkins Ice Shelf is in defiance of the overall Antarctic trend, and is quite likely due to reasons other than global warming.

Experts contacted by The Heartland Institute point out the wire service story is a gross misrepresentation of current and recent temperatures in Antarctica. You may quote from this statement or contact the experts directly at the phone numbers and email addresses provided below.

“In reality the Wilkins Ice Shelf and all the former shelves that collapsed are small and most near the Antarctic peninsula, which sticks well out from Antarctica into the currents and winds of the South Atlantic and lies in a tectonically active region with surface and subsurface active volcanic activity. The vast continent has actually cooled since 1979.

“In fact, the ice is returning to Antarctica so quickly that the extent of Antarctic polar ice is running an amazing 60 percent ahead of last year when it set a new record. The ice extent is already approaching its second highest level since satellite measurements began in 1979, even though we are just a few days into the Antarctic winter, and there will be six more months of expanding ice until the ice reaches its seasonal peak.

“Wilkins, like all the other ice masses that temporarily broke up, will refreeze soon. The Antarctic ice is very likely going to exceed last year’s record. Yet the world is left with the false impression that Antarctica’s ice sheet is starting to disappear.”

Joseph D’Aleo
Executive Director
International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project
603/689-6900 (cell – evenings)

“While a very small portion of West Antarctica, including the West Antarctic Peninsula highlighted in the news reports, is experiencing warming temperatures, Antarctica as a whole has been cooling dramatically since the 1950s. Moreover, the overall Antarctic polar ice cap has been continually growing in thickness and overall extent.

“Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) documented that Antarctic sea ice reached its greatest extent in recorded history. This year, the growth of Antarctic sea ice is already ahead of last year’s record pace. Any assertion that global warming is causing a reduction in Antarctic polar ice is absurd on its face.

James M. Taylor
Senior Fellow
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“The recent news stories on Antarctic ice shelf collapse completely miss two very important facts.

“First, the Antarctic Peninsula is an extension of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and populated with volcanoes both on the surface and sub-marine.

“Second, satellite imagery from NASA shows there to be hot spots around and within the Antarctic Peninsula where the Wilkins Ice Shelf is located. NASA computer models show one such volcanic hotspot is centered directly under the Wilkins Ice Shelf.”

Anthony Watts
Chief Meteorologist, KPAY-AM Radio, California
[email protected]

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