Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Breaking News: the West Antarctic Ice Sheet starts collapsing, says IPCC

Huge rift in the West Antarctic ice sheet as revealed by satellite photos: the whole ice sheet has started moving toward the sea.

A new report released today by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) discloses satellite data showing a huge rift in the West Antarctic ice sheet, indicating that the whole mass of ice has started moving toward the sea. Recent reports had already indicated that the deglaciation process was taking place faster than previously expected, but the new data indicate an unexpectedly rapid collapse. According to IPCC, at the measured speeds, the total collapse of the Western Ice Sheet will take place in less than a decade.

The collapse of the Western Ice Sheet is expected to cause a sea level rise of 4.8 m (16 ft). If the same phenomenon will affect all the Antarctic glaciers - as it appears to be the case from other data in the IPCC report - the final result will be to raise the sea level of 61 meters (200 feet). The report does not detail the possible effects on coastal cities and on populated areas at elevations lower than the expected sea rise.

Most comments on the IPCC report seem to agree on the fact that the satellite data indicate a very rapid melting of the Antarctic glacier, as admitted also in "skeptical" circles. Anthony Watts, famed for his "Watt's up with that?" blog reports that he feels "vindicated" by the new results, since they prove that the IPCC models for climate change were "wrong" having been unable to predict how fast the melting was to become. Viscount Cristopher Monckton has commented that this event "shows that global warming has nothing to do with the Antarctic collapse" because "the warming pause is still ongoing."

Many scientists also commented on the news about Antarctica. Michael Mann, of Penn State University, stated that "Those glaciers got quite a blow by the hockey stick!" Others declared that they felt comfortable in seeing that they would not be branded any more as "catastrophists" and "alarmists", but several also expressed concern that, now that global warming was demonstrated beyond all doubts, their research grants on the subject would be curtailed.

On  the political side, the right sees the flooding of the coastal cities as "nothing to fear". Righteous people, it is said, will surely be spared by the incoming waves, just as Moses and the chosen people were spared when they crossed the Red sea. The comments from the left are generally positive, as it is hoped that the flooding of the coastal regions will reduce pollution. It is also hoped that flooding will generate opportunities for more resilient communities and a zero-growth lifestyle based on local resources.

The general reaction of the industry to the news has been of cautious optimism. Spokesmen from the oil industry and the mineral industry have reported great interest in the mineral exploitation of the newly exposed lands of Antarctica, expected to contain oil, gas, coal, and other important minerals. The construction industry is also reporting interest in the new business opportunities involved: such as barriers against the sea rise and the relocations of whole cities inland. "Never before" one spokesman for the industry said, "prospects for the cement industry have been so bright."

Also in Washington D. C., the new IPCC report is seen with cautious optimism. The US President has spoken of a "new frontier" opening up with the deglaciation of Antarctica and with the new lands being freed for human settlement. He used the sentence "go south, young man!" to indicate the new direction for the growth of the economy.

More news on this subject: "The Great Greenland Melting: Threat or Opportunity?"

Note: I have been told that someone could take this post as if it were a serious report. So, let me state it explicitly, just in case: this is an April's fools post. It is true that the Antarctic glaciers are melting down, but not as fast as described here. 

Note also that, the image at the beginning is from the University of Michigan, it is about ice calving in Antarctica but, again, it does not indicate a super-fast melting


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)