Antarctic Ice

Since we’ve thrown EcoWorld into the global warming debate – and it is a debate – we’ve been trying hard to not just report what everybody else has said, but try to understand for ourselves what the data and the theories really mean. This is basically impossible, but it’s also our obligation both as responsible journalists and as citizens of the world. So we will try.


One relatively easily understood concept is the notion of global warming causing melting of land based polar icecaps which in turn would cause the oceans to rise. In practice, that means the approximately 1.4 mile thick icecap atop Greenland’s 840,000 square miles of land mass, and the roughly 1.3 mile thick icecap atop the 5.8 million square miles of Antarctica.

Since the world’s oceans occupy a surface area of 139 million square miles, it isn’t too hard to figure out how much the ocean surface would rise, if all this land-bound ice melted. There are about 1.2 million cubic miles of ice atop Greenland, and if you pour all that into the oceans (1.2M cubic miles / 139.0M square miles of ocean surface) you get a rise of .083 miles, which is 45 feet. Calculating Antarctica’s frozen ice at a volume of 7.7 million cubic miles (1.32 miles thick x 5.3 million square miles), and pouring that into the oceans (7.7M cubic miles / 139 million square miles of ocean surface) you get a rise of 292 feet.

So our doomsday scenario could involve a rise of the oceans of 337 feet. A scary prospect indeed. One is not calmed if one reads the many reports on Antarctic ice melt. Here are a few: “Antarctic Ice Melting Faster” (BBC), “Antarctic Ice Melting Rapidly” (Washington Post), and “Antarctic Ice Sheet Melting Fast” (ABC).

The landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, in Section 3.3.1, “Antarctic and Arctic Ice and Snow” made the prediction that a warming climate would melt ice at the perimeters of Antarctica and Greenland but would cause increased snow in the interior of those land masses, and that these effects might counteract one another. This is one of the most important premises underlying whether or not sea levels will rise – will the melting ice be balanced by new ice formation through more snow on the icecaps?

Some reports supporting the precipitation increases include “East Antarctica Puts on Weight” (, and “Snowfall Driven Growth in Antarctica Mitigates Loss of Ice” (Science Magazine).

Now the National Science Foundation has weighed in on this crucial question with a new study released on August 10, 2006 entitled “Overall Antarctic Snowfall Hasn’t Changed in 50 Years”. But in the study, one of the investigators, Andrew Monaghan of Ohio State University, acknowledges “The year-to-year and decadal variability of the snowfall is so large that it makes it nearly impossible to distinguish trends that might be related to climate change from even a 50-year record.”

Bottom line – we don’t know yet. But it would behoove us to pay close attention to this and other fundamental premises of global warming theories.

8 Responses to “Antarctic Ice”
  1. Matilda Zuckerman says:

    Nice article. Actually balanced which is rare in this polarized world. BTW, Antartica and Greenland aren’t going to melt anytime soon. In many parts of those ice masses, the temperature has never gotten above freezing…ever.

    Risght now, sea level is rising just an inch every 10 years. This is faster than the one inch every sixteen year rate that was the rule for the last century. Nontheless, this is a very slow and manageable rise.

  2. ellen prekop says:

    Hey Folks,

    Just happened on your website and will return! Great and thoughtful article on Antarctic ice melt, global warming, etc. I am very tired of Al Gore and his merry band of little green men!

  3. Nikolay Sidorenkov says:

    I deduced the equations which connect the variations in the water or ice masses: in World Ocean (MO), Antarctica (MA), in Greenland (MG), and in rest of land (ML) with the Earth’s rotation parameters (ERP) (coordinates of the North Pole and angular velocity).
    Theoretical series of Mi from 1891 to 2007 are calculated using ERP. The respective theoretical and empirical series MA for Antarctica show a good qualitative agreement.
    Sidorenkov N.S., The interaction between Earth’s rotation and geophysical processes. WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH and Co. KGaA, Weinheim, 2009, 305 pp, chapter 11.

  4. MoeIsMe says:

    Appreciate the article. I am a physics grad, and the first thing I tend to do is check the numbers & assumptions. First, your volume of water is off by almost 10%, since ice occupies almost 10% more volume than water. Second, the compression of the ocean water under the additional weight of more water is not considered (although probably not large). Third (bravo) is the fact that the atmosphere will be wetter, and far more snow will fall in the cold regions than is falling now, and the interior ice will grow. Fourth, how much water would a wet atmosphere hold? I never see any information on this volume of water growing. Fifth, with any luck, and continued exponential growth in consumption, we will be out of oil in a few decades, and mother earth will be able to push her reset button. The increased river flows will help drive the additional electric dams we will need for power.

  5. A Rotor says:

    Average summer temperature in Antartica is -17.5 F. That is really really cold!! Isn’t -17.5 F a long ways from 32 F? I thought so. I think ice will melts at 32 F for a long time to come. Worrying over this will not make you a hero or a politician.

  1. [...] Here are questions regarding the notion of anthropogenic CO2 causing runaway global warming that all who opine might find worth personally investigating: – atmospheric CO2 molecules boil off the upper atmosphere and are self limiting – the impact of increasing atmospheric CO2 is non-linear, we’ve already seen most of the warming effect – global warming is caused more by sunspot and cosmic ray activity, as well as earth’s many orbital cycles (ex: when earth’s orbit is more circular, the planet is hotter) – recent measured temperature change just below the “CO2 belt” in the upper stratosphere is down, not up, contradicting fundamental runaway CO2 threat theories – anthropogenic CO2 is only 3-5% of CO2 emitted, the rest is natural – yearly fluctuations in natural CO2 emissions are an order of magnitude greater than all yearly anthropogenic CO2 emissions – there is evidence that historically (over the past several million years) rising CO2 levels were the effect of global warming, not the cause – the southern icecap is actually increasing in mass (Ref. Antarctic Ice) – greenland’s icecap is not melting at a significant rate (Ref. Greenland’s Ice Melting Slowly) – sea level rise is insignificant – much flooding is due to land subsidance – storm fury is more visible today because of overbuilding into marginal areas – the western arctic is warming but the eastern arctic is actually cooling – warming in the northern hemisphere over the past 20-30 years could be due to the interdecadal oscilation between the northern and southern Atlantic ocean temperatures – the most recent IPCC summary acknowledges there is no evidence to suggest the gulf stream that warms Europe may be disrupted – global temperature measurements are weighted towards areas that are increasingly urbanized, and urban areas absorb more heat – there are now over a million square miles of urbanized land, and this urban heat island effect could cause some warming on a global scale – transpiration from watered, forested land, especially in the tropics, is the forcing mechanism to maintain global monsoon circulation and prevent drought – in turn – deforestation causes drought, creating hotter land and additional heat island effect – the tropical forests have declined from over 7 million square miles to less than 3 million, and tropical forests release more moisture and are cooler than open land – using mechanized pumps, in the last 100 years we have depleted aquafirs in all the agricultural lands of the world, lowering water tables from, say, 10 meters deep to over 500 meters deep. The resulting agricultural land heat island comprises perhaps 10% of all land surface on earth – even taking into account the possible errors in measurement, the recorded warming over the past 150 years is about .5 degrees centigrade, not a significant amount – the claims that the last 10 years include several of the “warmest on record” is disputed, just as the claims the landbased icecaps are rapidly melting (net loss) is completely false – CO2 forcing theories and the computer models associated with them do not sufficiently take into account natural balancing processes in the earth’s climate regulatory system – the computer models that predict global warming due to CO2 rely on huge assumptions that are impossible to verify – the role of water vapor, land status, and solar cycles on global warming are gigantic wild cards in these computer models, which, depending on the assumptions made, completely change the predictions of these models These are a few questions that anyone who is listening to the debate about global warming should wish to hear answered. There is much, much more. Global warming alarmists and the things they’re trying to do are extreme. If you pause to consider the laws being proposed based on blind acceptance of global warming alarm, you may find many of them do more harm than good. In the name of reducing CO2 emissions, there is reduced attention to other pollutants, and massive new rounds of deforestation to grow biofuel. Technorati Tags: CO2 skeptic, inconvenient questions [...]

  2. [...] have looked at truly alarming articles regarding rising sea levels in our posts Antarctic Ice and Greenland’s Ice Cap, and while they present some sobering possibilities, upon scrutiny [...]

  3. [...] – the southern icecap is actually increasing in mass (Ref. Antarctic Ice) [...]

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