National Geographic has just run an extraordinary story showing, against scientists’ expectations, antarctic ice on the Ross Ice Shelf is growing, not melting. This has profound implications for “consensus” views on global warming and its impact
In an extraordinary article by National Geographic, it is revealed that one of the largest Antarctic ice shelves is growing in size, not melting as scientists had long assumed.
Published on February 16 to little fanfare, the article relates the story of a team of New Zealand scientists who set out on an unprecedented mission last November to explore the West Antarctic ice sheet. The Ross Ice Shelf is by far the largest of a set of floating ice shelves that hold the sheet in place.
“Global sea levels would rise by 10 feet if West Antarctica lost these crucial stabilizers and spilled its ice into the ocean,” the article averred.
But evidence that this could be happening because of melting was not what was found:
“The surprises began almost as soon as a camera was lowered into the first borehole, around December 1.” the article said.
“The undersides of ice shelves are usually smooth due to gradual melting. But as the camera passed through the bottom of the hole, it showed the underside of the ice adorned with a glittering layer of flat ice crystals—like a jumble of snowflakes—evidence that in this particular place, sea water is actually freezing onto the base of the ice instead of melting it.
‘“It blew our minds,” says Christina Hulbe, a glaciologist from the University of Otago in New Zealand, who co-led the expedition. The Ross Ice Shelf is considered more stable, at present, than many of West Antarctica’s other floating shelves—and this observation could help explain that: if a few inches of sea water periodically freezes onto the bottom of its ice, this could buffer it from thinning more rapidly.”
What also comes out of the article is an indication of how climate science remains a discipline in its infancy, not one from which claims to certainty can easily be made.
“The new holes drilled through the Ross Ice Shelf also provide a more general window into the unknown. Under the ice shelf “is a huge amount of ocean, it’s the volume of the North Sea” between England and Norway, says Hulbe, “and there are almost no measurements” there,” the article said.