We’re all gonna drown

Photoshopped image Pixy. Thanks to Cadae for figures.

Why bother to get out a calculator and run a few numbers? If The Washington Post prints it, it must be true, so we will just fill up some column inches with zero effort. I guess that is the thought process of the NZ Herald editorial team.

And so we get the doomsday headline: Quote.

Ice loss from Antarctica has increased sixfold since the 1970s, research finds

Antarctic glaciers have been melting at an accelerating pace over the past four decades due to an influx of warm ocean water – a startling new finding that researchers say could mean sea levels are poised to rise more quickly than predicted in coming decades.

The Antarctic lost 40 billion tons of melting ice to the ocean each year from 1979 to 1989. That figure rose to 252 billion tons lost per year beginning in 2009, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That means the region is losing six times as much ice as it was four decades ago, an unprecedented pace in the era of modern measurements. (It takes about 360 billion tons of ice to produce one millimetre of global sea-level rise.) End quote.

How many people are going to do the mental arithmetic here and realise that 252/360 = 0.7 mm of sea level rise. Totally undetectable. And this presumes that none of the ice that melted was already floating as floating ice does not increase the level when it melts. Moving on … Quote.

“I don’t want to be alarmist,” said Eric Rignot, an Earth-systems scientist for the University of California at Irvine and NASA who led the work. But he said the weaknesses that researchers have detected in East Antarctica – home to the largest ice sheet on the planet – deserve deeper study.  End quote.

I don’t want to be alarmist, so I will let the media do that for me. Oh, and by the way – we need more money for ‘deeper study’. Quote.

“The places undergoing changes in Antarctica are not limited to just a couple places,” Rignot said. “They seem to be more extensive than what we thought. That, to me, seems to be reason for concern.”

The findings are the latest sign that the world could face catastrophic consequences if climate change continues unabated. In addition to more frequent droughts, heat waves, severe storms and other extreme weather that could come with a continually warming Earth, scientists already have predicted that seas could rise nearly three feet globally by 2100 if the world does not sharply decrease its carbon output. But in recent years, there has been growing concern that the Antarctic could push that even higher.  End quote.

A Newspaper

You can read all the rest of the alarmist carry-on if you feel you have a few minutes of your life to waste, but before you do – let’s look at the maths.

The Antarctic ice sheet is one of the two polar ice caps of the Earth. It covers about 98% of the Antarctic continent and is the largest single mass of ice on Earth. It covers an area of almost 14 million square kilometres (5.4 million square miles) and contains 26.5 million cubic kilometres (6,400,000 cubic miles) of ice. A cubic kilometer of ice weighs approximately one metric gigaton, meaning that the ice sheet weighs 26,500,000 gigatons.  End quote.


There are 26.5 million gigatons of ice down there and the ‘extraordinary’ and ‘unprecedented’ (in the last few years when we have actually been measuring this stuff) loss has been 252 billion tons.

252 billion tons can also be called 252 gigatons – exactly the same thing.

So losing 252 out of 26.5 million is not a game changer. Whilst you might miss $252 out of your wallet in your current circumstances, if you had just won the Powerball and had $26.5 million in the bank, you would probably cope okay.

252 gigatons of ice is 0.00095% loss per year.  At that alarming rate, it will all be gone by the end of the century… the 31st century that is.

No ice left in Antarctica by 3079, shock horror!