Surprise! Study Finds Western Antarctica Melting Mostly Due To Geothermal Processes

Jo Nova wondered when the original DOOOOOM story about Western Antarctica melt was released whether it could be due to volcanic activity. Surprise? Today she writes

Only last week I wondered if West Antarctic volcanoes had something to do with the Antarctic warming and pointed out this strange coincidence below where almost all the warming seems to occur over the volcanic area which is part of the hot “Pacific rim of fire”. I also wondered why some parts of the media don’t seem to mention the volcanoes. Wait and see if this story gets picked up. So far, Fox, and Business Insider have it.

On to the press release from the University Of Texas at Austin

Thwaites Glacier, the large, rapidly changing outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is not only being eroded by the ocean, it’s being melted from below by geothermal heat, researchers at the Institute for Geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin (UTIG) report in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings significantly change the understanding of conditions beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet where accurate information has previously been unobtainable.

The Thwaites Glacier has been the focus of considerable attention in recent weeks as other groups of researchers found the glacier is on the way to collapse, but more data and computer modeling are needed to determine when the collapse will begin in earnest and at what rate the sea level will increase as it proceeds. The new observations by UTIG will greatly inform these ice sheet modeling efforts.

Using radar techniques to map how water flows under ice sheets, UTIG researchers were able to estimate ice melting rates and thus identify significant sources of geothermal heat under Thwaites Glacier. They found these sources are distributed over a wider area and are much hotter than previously assumed.

The geothermal heat contributed significantly to melting of the underside of the glacier, and it might be a key factor in allowing the ice sheet to slide, affecting the ice sheet’s stability and its contribution to future sea level rise.

The cause of the variable distribution of heat beneath the glacier is thought to be the movement of magma and associated volcanic activity arising from the rifting of the Earth’s crust beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Knowledge of the heat distribution beneath Thwaites Glacier is crucial information that enables ice sheet modelers to more accurately predict the response of the glacier to the presence of a warming ocean.

 

Well, that’s strange.   Watts Up With That?

Well, never mind. From the University of Texas at Austin  and the “you can stop your wailing now” department, comes this really, really, inconvenient truth.

Lest Warmists think this is all some Skeptic conspiracy, even Discovery notices this as serious science. Of course, this is nothing exactly new: NBC News noticed volcanic activity under Antarctica as recently as November 2013. So did many other news outlets, ones which are decidedly leftist.

Might there be some warming causation helping? Of course. Is it anthropogenic? Probably not. Otherwise, Warmists would get off their duffs and stop using fossil fuels. Their very inaction gives rise to the thought that they don’t believe what they say.

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20 Responses to “Surprise! Study Finds Western Antarctica Melting Mostly Due To Geothermal Processes”

  1. Better_Be_Gumballs says:

    Well, poo. Another over hyperventilation tool blown to smithereens. Maybe we can say, “but we meant the WHOLE of the antartic was calving off”? hmmm. no, that doesn’t work either.

    Guess we’ll have to admit, “it’s failed models under failed models. it’s failed models all the way down.”

    /sarc

  2. Jeffery says:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/06/04/1405184111.full.pdf+html

    Here’s the citation for the actual paper. JoNova, you and WUWT forgot to attach it. (Strangely, I had to find the link at a ‘warmist’ site. It’s almost as if the deniasphere doesn’t want people to read the paper, but only the denier interpretation of the paper.)

    Now that you have the paper perhaps you can point out where the climate scientists conclude:

    “… Western Antarctica Melting Mostly Due To Geothermal Processes”

    as you typed as a headline. Mostly? I couldn’t find that in the paper but I’m sure you can since you typed the headline.

    If you can’t prove that the melting is “Mostly Due to Geothermal Processes” we’ll be forced to conclude that the scientists at UT-Austin are correct in concluding that the geothermal processes contribute to the melting too. But they didn’t claim “mostly”.

    Note too the “hotspots” were 2 to 3 times warmer than average continental crust, not 1000 degrees.

    And why is this good news for “skeptics”? Doesn’t this mean the West Antarctic ice sheet will melt faster than predicted?? You are ecstatic to discover (actually, hated climate scientists discovered this) that a fraction of the melting is due to geothermal causes? Pure skeptic ideology.

    Anyway, this is how real science works. What Teach, NOva and WUWT is a disservice to science.

  3. Better_Be_Gumballs says:

    From the linked pdf:

    Significance
    Thwaites Glacier is one of the West Antarctica’s most prominent, rapidly evolving, and potentially unstable contributors to global sea level rise. Uncertainty in the amount and spatial pattern of geothermal flux and melting beneath this glacier
    is a major limitation in predicting its future behavior and sea level contribution. In this paper, a combination of radar sounding and subglacial water routing is used to show that large areas at the base of Thwaites Glacier are actively melting in response
    to geothermal flux consistent with rift-associated magma migration and volcanism. This supports the hypothesis that heterogeneous geothermal flux and local magmatic processes could be critical factors in determining the future behavior of the West
    Antarctic Ice Sheet.

    The distribution of melt and geothermal flux (Fig. 3) includes several regions with high melt that are closely related to rift structure and associated volcanism (7, 8). These include the entire westernmost tributary (Fig. 3, location C) that flanks Mount Takahe (Fig. 3,
    location A), a subaerial volcano active in the Quaternary (28,29), and several high-flux areas across the catchment adjacent to topographic features that are hypothesized to be volcanic in origin (7, 8) (e.g., Fig. 3, locations D and E). We also observe high geothermal flux in the upper reaches of the central tributaries that are relatively close to the site of the WAIS Divide ice core (Fig. 3, location B), where unexpectedly high
    melt and geothermal flux have been estimated.

    Our results further suggest that the subglacial water system of Thwaites Glacier may be responding to heterogeneous and temporally variable basal melting driven by the evolution of rift-associated volcanism and support the hypothesis that both heterogeneous geothermal flux (6) and local magmatic processes (5) could be critical factors in determining the future behavior of the WAIS.

  4. Jeffery says:

    g,

    I know you have trouble reading (it’s a conservative thing, linking without reading), but my point was that the authors offered no indication of how much the geothermal component contributed to the overall melt. Teach claimed “mostly” which implies greater than 50%.

    Can you find in the paper where they reveal “how much”? I admit that I cannot find it. Is it 1%, is it 90%? We know it can’t be 100% because the warming sea is causing some of the melt.

    I have another good question for you but only after you (or someone) answers this one.

  5. Better_Be_Gumballs says:

    Granted this is from the press release, but you can see where the information came from:

    The geothermal heat contributed significantly to melting of the underside of the glacier, and it might be a key factor in allowing the ice sheet to slide, affecting the ice sheet’s stability and its contribution to future sea level rise.

    The cause of the variable distribution of heat beneath the glacier is thought to be the movement of magma and associated volcanic activity arising from the rifting of Earth’s crust beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

    and from the initial link:

    Using radar data from satellites in orbit, the researchers were able to figure out where these subglacial streams were too full to be explained by flow from upstream. The swollen streams revealed spots of unusually high melt, Schroeder said. Next, the researchers checked out the subglacial geology in the region and found that fast-melting spots were disproportionately clustered near confirmed West Antarctic volcanoes, suspected volcanoes or other presumed hotspots.

    Reads pretty plain to me.
    Thanks for trying tho. And failing again.

  6. Jeffery says:

    g,

    I’ve read all that, and the actual PNAS paper. I’m not arguing, except to point out that Teach’s headline is probably false and misleading. Can you explain to me how that sheds light on significance of the slightly warmer ground under the ice? I trust that the scientists are right on this. The water beneath the ice sheet allows it to slide toward the warming ocean.

    How much does the geothermal phenomenon contribute to the melting process?

    2nd Question that you won’t answer: Do you think the geothermal phenomenon just started? If it were a long term phenomenon wouldn’t the West A Ice Sheet have been melting a long time?

  7. david7134 says:

    Jeff,
    Why don’t you tell us just exactly how much CO2 contributes to warming? Like, for a given unit of CO2, what is the equivalent rise in temp? Or for that matter where is CO2 concentration obtained? Also, keep calling everyone names, that helps in making your point.

  8. Jeffery says:

    dave,

    I like to give as good as I get from you guys. Do you think name-calling gets your point across?

    The current warming trend is mostly because of CO2. If the CO2 level had remained at 280 ppm the Earth would be about a degree C cooler than now. Climate sensitivity (energy retained/unit CO2) amounts to about a degree C for a doubling of CO2. Positive feedbacks are expected to add another 2C. Understand that CO2 is not the only determinant of the Earth’s heat content. Surface ice reflects sunlight. Clouds reflect sunlight. Aerosols from volcanoes and fossil fuel burning reflect sunlight. The radiation from the Sun itself can vary with time. Cyclic “wobbles” in the Earth’s orbits can change the distribution of the Sun’s energy to the Earth.

    Atmospheric CO2 is measured in the atmosphere. Why do you ask?

  9. Jl says:

    Jeffery-“the authors offered no indication of how much the geothermal component contributed to the overall melt. Is it 1%? Is it 90%? As someone asked you above, and you couldn’t answer, how much of the warming that’s stopped was caused by CO2? And how much by man-made CO2? It’s actually quite funny that you asked that question, seeing as you can’t answer your own. But you attempt your usual dodge and weave. The morale of the story is that it’s just another in a long line of scare stories from the bed-wetters that have turned out to be, well, not quite so bed-wetting.

  10. Jeffery says:

    Jl,

    Warming hasn’t stopped. Here’s what I said, “The current warming trend is mostly because of CO2.”

    The increase in atmospheric CO2 is entirely from man.

    The radiative forcing from a doubling of CO2 is 3.7 Watts per square meter (W/m2) (IPCC AR4 Section 2.3.1). What is the expected change in global temperatures from a radiative forcing of 3.7 W/m2? In a climate with no feedbacks, global temperatures would rise 1.2°C (Lorius 1990). (I estimated 1C).

  11. proof says:

    Evil, Republican 1% volcanoes…

  12. david7134 says:

    Jeff,
    You are wrong. Most of CO2 is generated by nature, not the use of fossil fuels. Even your religion acknowledges this. They also indicate that with the most stringent measures that we would only effect CO2 by a single digit percentage. At least know what you are pushing or stop lying.

  13. gitarcarver says:

    Oh Jeffery, I see that you still have problems when confronted with facts.

    You always attacked people by saying “if it isn’t CO2 that is causing the earth to warm, what is it?”

    When people answered “natural causes of which we are unaware or whose interactions we don’t understand” you dismissed that answer as being “anti-science.”

    Well, this is a case were there are apparently things going on whose effects were not taken into account by people of your ilk.

    Because this paper shows how much egg you have on your face, you have to try and attack the people who brought it forth.

    Once again, we see that people like you don’t know science at all.

  14. Jeffery says:

    gc,

    I did not attack the authors or the paper. We all know that Teach, WUWT and Jonova are not impartial and are not to be trusted. I trust the authors of the PNAS paper. They did not claim that the melt is “mostly” due to the geothermal processes, someone in the Teach, WUWT, jonova chain did.

    As I said, I accepted the science of the paper that some fraction of the Western Antarctic ice sheet melt is due to geothermal processes. All I’m asking is “how much”?

    You take it a bridge too far when you type “if it isn’t CO2 that is causing the earth to warm, what is it?”… Certainly you do not mean to imply that this tiny amount of geothermal activity contributes to global warming. It does clearly have an impact on melting there. The question is, How much?

    The difference between a scientist and an ideologue is that the scientist asks “How much?”, while the ideologue proclaims “mostly” without evidence.

    I’ll gladly accept whatever scientific evidence you or Teach or g or j can find about the ice sheet. If it’s 99% from geothermal, so be it. It would mean that global warming is not causing this part of the Western Antarctic ice sheet to melt but vulcanism is. One must follow the evidence. Does this result tell us anything about global warming? No.

    To paraphrase Keynes (attributed): “When the evidence changes, I change my position. What do you do, sir?” We know the answer to that, don’t we? You deny the evidence, except if it supports your ideology.

  15. Jeffery says:

    david,

    You are confused or did not understand. The INCREASE in atmospheric CO2 from the 280 ppm that has been steady for half a million years to the current 400 ppm (a 40% increase) is absolutely from our burning of fossil fuels. The INCREASE. If we could suddenly make the oceans retain more CO2 we could solve the problem. If we could tie up more CO2 in plants. Of course there is a natural carbon cycle. Plants take in CO2 and make complex carbohydrates using the Sun’s energy. Plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and other abundant single celled plants and animals respire and decompose.

    But for 500,000 years these processes were in balance and atmospheric CO2 stayed quite constant. It has shot up in the past 100 years.

  16. gitarcarver says:

    Jeffery,

    I’ll gladly accept whatever scientific evidence you or Teach or g or j can find about the ice sheet. If it’s 99% from geothermal, so be it. It would mean that global warming is not causing this part of the Western Antarctic ice sheet to melt but vulcanism is. One must follow the evidence. Does this result tell us anything about global warming? No.

    You and others have laid the ice melt at the feet of global AGW. You and others claim that the only cause could possibly be AGW.

    In the past, you have asked “what other causes of global warming could there be?” When people gave you reasonable, scientific answers, you dismissed them.

    Tell me Jeffery, if one of the indicators that you and others have used to prove AGW is the melting of ice at the poles and have claimed that the only cause of that melting could possibly be CO2, now that your premise has been shown to be false, don’t you have a responsibility to at least man up and admit you were wrong on the lack of “other causes?”

    To paraphrase Keynes (attributed): “When the evidence changes, I change my position. What do you do, sir?” We know the answer to that, don’t we?

    Yes we do.

    We know that despite the evidence and despite this bit of scientific proof destroying your credibility, you want to hold onto your previous position.

    It’s really easy Jeffery…. when you were running off at the mouth claiming denying the possible existence of other causes of AGW, now that there is another source that changes the thermodynamics of one of your “proofs.” are you going to man up and admit you were wrong? Or are you going to maintain your childish belief that despite scientific proof, you were wrong?

  17. gitarcarver says:

    “…..your childish belief that despite scientific proof, you were wrong?”

    Obviously, that should be “despite scientific proof, you were right?”

  18. Better_Be_Gumballs says:

    But for 500,000 years these processes were in balance and atmospheric CO2 stayed quite constant.

    Nothing is ever in balance in Nature. There’s another of your fallacies. And, why are you focused on 500,000 years? Can we now call you cherry-picker like you do on the “no statistical warming” graph?

    Why not go back farther he says? Why just limit your parameters he says?

    Why not go back 1,000,000 years? 4,000,000 years? See what the CO2 ppm was like then?!

    We’ve challenged you to do that. Heck, why not go back to 550 million years ago!??! If you can prove CO2 was “quite constant” from 4million years ago till the 1950’s, then I’ll join your side.

    But yet, you for whatever reason only want to focus during this current geologic timeframe. GO outside of it and CO2 is much different.

    Heck, it is only during this time period that CO2 has ever been this low. Even if we shot up to 1,000ppm, we’d still be lower than the average!!!!

  19. david7134 says:

    Jeff,
    If you are going to spout on this foolish junk, at least be abreast of what the members of your high priesthood are saying. They clearly indicate that CO2 is not steady. In fact, they are trying to say that the ice ages occurred as a consequence of lowered CO2 levels instead of the generally accepted concept of procession. So, at least read your bible. Maybe a sacrifice to the climate god would help.

  20. Better_Be_Gumballs says:

    unfortunately David, he doesn’t believe in any kind of god. Which might explain why he’s all wrong on many things. the climate religion god is angry with him and deliberately deceives him so he’ll look foolish when he spouts his gibberish.

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