More on Antarctic “Collapse”

May 14, 2014

The New York Times changed its headline to omit the word “collapse” – its probably true that the word has different meaning to glaciologists than it does to ordinary folk.
Nevertheless, these new papers have sent some serious shock waves out. Significantly, scientists did not model “worst case” scenarios in this work.

Video above has good visualization and explanation of the issue.


29 Responses to “More on Antarctic “Collapse””

  1. Jason Says:

    “At current melt rates, concludes Rignot, these glaciers will be history within in a few hundred years…”

    Among other thoughts: lets hope we’re not doing do anything that might accelerate that melt rate.

    Oh 😦

  2. 5 Myths About Antarctic Melt

    News that the catastrophic collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is already underway, like other big reports about the southernmost continent, spur chatter and questions about what’s really happening at the bottom of the world.

    Here, Live Science explains the reality behind some common misconceptions about big changes in Antarctica.

    1. Antarctic ice is getting bigger, not shrinking!

    2. It must be all those volcanoes.

    3. It’s all a global warming conspiracy!

    4. The Earth will cycle itself into another ice age anyway.

    5. Ice shrinks when it melts, so ocean levels will go down

  3. I find it ironic that scientists talk about irreversible melting, when the chief mechanism behind that melting could be slowed or halted by anything that blocked the flow of ocean water beneath the ice slabs.  Such a blockage would cause the water to freshen and cool.  The ice above would thicken as it was replenished by flows, the grounding line would move seaward, and the flow would slow as friction increased.

    Perhaps the bottoms of the ice sheets could be coated with a thick layer of silica gel.  Silica is a normal constituent of sea water (diatoms make their shells from it) and anything that impedes the flow of heat would slow the melting.  Silica (silicic acid) is a byproduct of the weathering of olivines into carbonates, so that may solve two problems.

    • rayduray Says:

      I’ll buy you the paint brush. 🙂

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Don’t make fun of E-Pot, Ray.
        A job this big will require a roller (a BIG one).

      • It’ll take a bunch of spray guns, each one with a supertanker-sized submarine to feed it.

        The geoengineering approach to CO2 reduction has been analyzed, and one paper found that doing it on land would run into limits of silica transport by rivers into the oceans.  This means that there would be plenty of excess silica.  We might as well try innovative things with it, a bunch of them are bound to help if even a bit.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          SPRAY GUNS! On SUPER TANKER SIZED SUBMARINES!!!???? Lord love a duck, but that’s incredibly mindless and ignorant of the science involved.

          And “plenty of excess silica”? We surely do have an “excess”, since Silicon (silica) is the MOST abundant element in the Earth’s crust after the oxygen with which most of it is combined as SiO2 (silicon dioxide—-more commonly known as SAND). There is just about more silicon in the earth’s crust than ALL the other elements combined (after oxygen).

          In his narcissism, E-Pot fails to follow advice and educate himself before spouting nonsense. Just as his intro biology let him down when it came to desmids and bacterial genetics, his intro chemistry and web-surfing have let him down here. He also shows that in his other recent comments here, which I will address separately.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      E-Pot needs to revisit the “XXX….for Dummies” section of his local library and check out the volumes on Physics, Engineering, and Chemistry.

      He first talks about what can only be interpreted as dams beneath the ice, then moves into PAINTING the underside of the ice with SILICA GEL because it IMPEDES the flow of HEAT? Oh, yeah, “blocking” the flow of water under the ever-moving ice and getting that silica gel to adhere should be a snap!

      He has badly misinterpreted whatever he has been reading in his quest to provide us with what HE carefully selects as TRUTH in his narcissistic ignorance of some very basic science. I suspect he knows as little about silica gel as he does about the difference between desmids and diatoms.

      • You need to pick up your Rubber Bible and look at the thermal conductivity of water.  It’s actually quite low.  If water is gelled, convection stops and the flow of heat will drop like a rock.

        • Why will the gel stay in place?

          • And why won’t it get eaten by microorganisms?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Why would they eat what is no more nourishing than “sand”? Although silica IS needed in small quantities by living things, it is not “food” to be eaten.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            It simply won’t, unless someone has invented a glue that will cause things to adhere to ice.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          And what is going to “gel” the water, E-pot? Does the word “gel” confuse you? Silica gel is named that because is it a gel when synthesized, but it is always left to dry and pelletized or ground to powder for use.

          Silica/silica gel does NOT dissolve much in water and does NOT cause water to “gel”. You’d have to glue it to the ice to get it to stick and it has no more insulative properties than a rock.

          Whatever in heck does the thermal conductivity of water have to do with this crazy scheme of yours? (other than the fact that you like to use multi-syllabic words that you don’t understand to impress us?)

          I was somewhat prophetic in saying “I suspect he knows as little about silica gel as….”. Actually, he probably knows less.

    • You sure seem to like geoengineering solutions to everything. How will you get the silica gel down there, and where are you going to get enough of it? And what other consequences could there be for putting tons and tons of it in the ocean? And what makes you think silica gel will stop the glacier flow anyway?

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Glad to see someone asking all the right questions about E-Pot’s silica gel fantasy excursion. See my other comments and waste no more time thinking about it.

      • How will you get the silica gel down there

        Dump it on the glacier surface near any fissure around the grounding line.  It’ll wind up right where you want it.  Or just run a hose.  If the slope of the bottom is downward as you go back under the ice, the gel will displace seawater.

        where are you going to get enough of it?

        As a byproduct of accelerated weathering of olivines/serpentines.  The magnesium would combine with CO2, the silica has other uses.

        And what other consequences could there be for putting tons and tons of it in the ocean?

        We know that adding silica to the water fertilizes the growth of diatoms, so some increase in net primary productivity is a likely consequence.

        And what makes you think silica gel will stop the glacier flow anyway?

        The density difference between water glass (roughly 1.2) and water is enough to prevent seawater from flowing beneath it.  If you can sufficiently constrict the passage that warm seawater must go through to melt the ice from below, you can get the rate of dissolution below the rate of replenishment from upstream.  At that point the grounding line should start to move seaward.

        Something that insulates the lower surface of the ice would be even better.  Maybe artificial hagfish slime with microbubbles to give it a density of about 0.95?

        You sure seem to like geoengineering solutions to everything.

        Geoengineering is not a solution.  It’s a stopgap.  Maybe with enough of the right tricks we can hold the line on major effects while we fix this mess we’ve created.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          E-Pot continues to show that he needs to do more study in the “XXXX For Dummies” section of his local library.

          “Dump the silica gel NEAR any fissure AROUND the grounding line”? Not too smart, since the movement of the glacier will carry it out and away from the grounding line. And who says that all fissures lead to “just where you want it” anyway?

          And we use hoses to move materials like sand now? E-Pot is showing small signs that he is beginning to understand the difference between silica gel and “water glass” (sodium silicate), but he is still badly confused.

          As he is with “silica FERTILIZES diatoms”. That intro biology course has not prepared him for this dialogue, and I suspect that he never took the intro physics or chem courses at all or he would not be regaling us with such scientific ignorance as he shows here.

          And he makes a good little joke with “artificial hagfish slime”. I would bet that not one in a thousand Americans has ever heard of hagfish, but E-Pot, in his zeal to look things up and tell us about them (even though he doesn’t understand them) has come up with a real gem of irrelevance and distraction with hagfish slime. LMAO Will he soon be suggesting solutions that employ hamster turds or cat hair?

          • E-Pot continues to show that he needs to do more study in the “XXXX For Dummies” section of his local library.

            Hypocrisy, thy screen name is DumbOldGuy.  For People Unclear On The Concept, the Mr. Boffo strip ain’t got nuthin on him:

            Not too smart, since the movement of the glacier will carry it out and away from the grounding line.

            I know this comes as a surprise to you and your knee-jerk “totally unencumbered by the thought process” reaction, but:  that is the idea.  The slope of the bedrock in these zones is downwards as you go inland.  Water glass or other solute-laden liquid, being denser than seawater, would settle up against the ice at the grounding line and prevent seawater from circulating to carry heat in to melt it; gelling would slow diffusion and dissipation.  As fresh ice flows in and the grounding line moves seaward, the heavy liquid/gel would be displaced toward the ocean.

            who says that all fissures lead to “just where you want it” anyway?

            The fissures go to the base of the ice sheet.  That’s how meltwater carries heat directly to the bottoms of glaciers.  Different fluid, same principle.

            As he is with “silica FERTILIZES diatoms”.

            Perhaps you need to look up the definition of “nutrient”.  Diatom growth is limited in many places by the available silica.  It is an essential nutrient for them, and silica-rich water can lead to blooms.

            E-Pot, in his zeal to look things up and tell us about them (even though he doesn’t understand them) has come up with a real gem of irrelevance and distraction with hagfish slime.

            Not everyone is as ignorant as you feel they should be.  When hagfish slime can gel a thousand times its volume of seawater, it is a potential material for… gelling seawater to slow or stop circulation.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            You ARE incorrigible (or have I said that before?) Here you are on a quite dead thread continuing to double down on foolishness. And “hypocrisy”? You need to look in your thesaurus—-you missed on that one, although it DOES fit YOU well as you attempt to evade responsibility for your egregious error in not knowing the difference between silica gel and water glass.

            May I remind you that you said “dump the silica GEL near any fissure”, that silica GEL is a sand-like solid that will just fill the fissures rather than seep under the glacier, and that the seaward motion of the glacier WILL push it away out to sea and spread it across the bottom (when it finally does make its way down) rather than build any kind of dam.

            It is the height of hypocrisy for YOU to now deny that mistake and start talking instead about “fluids” and “water glass or other (?) solute laden liquid” flowing downhill and inland towards the grounding line and having the effect you propose.

            Without wasting too many brain cells thinking about it, I will say again that it is a half-assed idea but that it might meet with some very limited success. Of course, being liquid and being exposed to the same water currents that are melting the ice from beneath, it is more likely that the “water glass or other (?) solute laden liquid” will be diluted, dispersed, and not behave as you would hope. (And you have no conception of the size and scope of this solution of yours).

            Re: The terms “Fertilize” and “nutrients”, YOU are the one who has used them sloppily here, not me. Perhaps your intro biology course glossed over those definitions?.

            I DO enjoy the hagfish slime joke though, and when you sell your B-H stock to raise the capital to open your hagfish farm, I will buy it with the $$$ I have made betting against all your doubling down on bad bets.

            PS Have the last word if you wish and play the “Demented Rooster strutting around the barnyard crowing about imagined victories”. I’ve embarrassed you enough here.

  4. skeptictmac57 Says:

    I suspect that the timeline of several centuries will be met with a big yawn by the general public. Hit the snooze button and go back to bed.

    • I suspect you’re right, but insurance companies are certain to notice.

      • skeptictmac57 Says:

        Yes,because they are forward looking,data driven,risk managing,statistical oriented,and sober minded business people. Just the opposite of most policy makers and the general public.

    • ubrew12 Says:

      I’m sympathetic to Rignot and the others. But the fact remains: they are trying to predict the flow rate of a form of matter that gifted the English language the word ‘Avalanche’. I find it significant that the reason Alpine communities set explosives off prospective Avalanche areas, is merely to be able to predict when, precisely, that baby is going to let go.

  5. A perfectly good thread almost ruined. This topic raised front page headlines in newspapers and radio and TV news. That is a welcome change. I was taken aback to find this news everywhere. If this is everyday news, GW deniers have now become Flat Earth Society members or worse.

    Its surprising that GW should come to the fore suddenly in an article about Antarctic melt and SLR. Not what I expected. Those are advanced topics of GW and a discussed here not long ago. In fact Antarctic ice is a favorite bastion of GW deniers, who never got that sea ice is the minority of ice in land dominated Antarctic.

    • The straw that broke the camel’s back? It’s a funny thing about tipping points – the Pearl Harbor scenario is rare. It is not facts on the ground so much as the conversations that take place around them that cause them.

  6. indy222 Says:

    I’ve got another idea; we just need to add some snags to the ocean bottom under the ice. We’ll need to haul a lot of rip rap down there… I volunteer the North Carolina State House for starters. Plenty of Washington DC would find more use there as well.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      I’ll second the NC State House idea, but we need to be careful about Washington DC—-lots of nice museums and monuments built at taxpayer’s expense, and Washington will work better if and when we get rid of the Republicans and Tea Party fools that are gumming up the works.

      One part that would not be missed is all the lawyers and lobbyists that are referred to as “K Street” because that’s the area where they are centered. Let’s flatten that area, and turn it into a second Mall that we can name the “Take Back America from the Special Interests”. Bulldoze all their high-priced houses in NW and on Capitol Hill and use them too. Throw in the headquarters of all the right wing “dumb tanks” as well. Should make a substantial pile of rip-rap, although I suspect that it would all be quite toxic and harmful to sea life because of the moral and intellectual pollution that permeates it.

  7. indy222 Says:

    …. dumb tanks…. yes, let’s throw them in too.

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