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Earth Science

West Antarctica Warming Faster Than Thought 247

Posted by timothy
from the it's-just-preheating-for-now dept.
New submitter dgrobinson writes "NY Times reports that West Antarctica has warmed more over the last half century than was first thought. A paper released Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience (abstract) found that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth."
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West Antarctica Warming Faster Than Thought

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  • Last post (Score:5, Funny)

    by fotoguzzi (230256) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @08:22PM (#42378229)
    Water almost up to my keyboard.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You must live in North Antarctica.

      • Re:Last post (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Holistic Missile (976980) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @10:52PM (#42379023)
        Isn't the entire coastline of Antarctica north?
      • by wgoodman (1109297)

        Time to buy some beachfront property?

  • A single weather station? Whatever happened to "weather's not climate?"

    Also, why is this single weather station suddenly getting a paper? It's been there since 1958, there is nothing here we didn't know.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dolphinzilla (199489)

      slow news day at the NY Times I guess.....

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 23, 2012 @08:35PM (#42378331)

      Single weather station indicates climate too - local climate.

      The difference is not spatial, it is temporal. Weather is short duration. Climate is average over long period of time.

      Single weather station measures local climate over decades. It also measures local weather.

      • by asifyoucare (302582) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @09:03PM (#42378503)

        Fair enough, but nobody is very interested in local climate in the immediate vicinity of one weather station. The fact that a paper was written is evidence that the importance of these measurements is being overstated. And it's worse that that - the record for this weather station had many gaps, and the researchers had to 'correct' the data and to interpolate the gaps.

        I believe the world has warmed over the last century or so, but I can't get worked up over incomplete data for a single station. I realise that this data is the best they have, but it is insufficient to indicate anything of importance.

        • by AK Marc (707885)

          Fair enough, but nobody is very interested in local climate in the immediate vicinity of one weather station.

          If AGW is real and causing the Earth to warm at 1C per 10 years, what is the effect near your house? It seems everyone is interested in weather in vicinity of one and only one station, it's just not the same for everyone, so learning the effects at a selection of them will help them tell you what to expect at your house, and that's really all most people care about.

    • by bunratty (545641) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @08:55PM (#42378453)

      You cannot tell with a single coin flip whether the coin is fair (50% probability of heads) or not. You cannot predict any particular flip of the coin. But if you flip a coin 1000 times and it comes up heads 659 times, you can say with a high degree of confidence that the coin is not fair. You still cannot predict any particular flip, but we can predict that we would see about 66 heads if we flipped the coin 100 times. If tomorrow we flip the coin 1000 times and it comes up head 831 times you have a high degree of confidence that the distribution of heads and tails changed since yesterday.

      Weather is like a single coin flip. You cannot tell in advance easily whether it will rain or not or exactly what temperature it will be. But we can make statements about the average temperature in January or the average number of rainy days in April. If we see those values change over time, as we have all over the Earth, you can say that the climate is changing. With enough measurements over a long enough period of time, you can see the climate change at only one weather station. If we also see the same thing happen at thousands of other weather stations over decades, and we observe the ice sheets melting and the humidity increasing, then that's clear evidence of the climate changing.

      That's the difference between weather and climate. Weather determines what you wear on a particular day. Climate determines what clothes you have in your closet.

      • by khallow (566160)

        But if you flip a coin 1000 times and it comes up heads 659 times, you can say with a high degree of confidence that the coin is not fair.

        It may also be that you are reporting a number of tails as heads. Or didn't record a number of flips and are guessing at what those flips were from what you do have.

      • With enough measurements over a long enough period of time, you can see the climate change at only one weather station.

        From observing weather stations across the globe, we can be certain that the time since 1958 isn't enough to discern any trend from a single weather station.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        It's no use, you know. You can explain these things over and over again, but at this point you can be almost sure that anyone who needs it explained to them is going to answer your carefully reasoned mathematical and scientific explanation with the irrefutable counter-argument, "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEEEEAR YOOOOU ..."

        • Please, I'm excited to hear your mathematical argument in favor of AGW.

          And perhaps counter this one:
          Assuming temperature is a monotonically increasing function of CO2 in the atmosphere, you cannot construct a Lyapunov function. Thus the system is unstable, and we are fucked anyway.
    • Climate is the statistics of weather, you should know that by now you've been corrected enough times in the past. Perhaps you didn't know that weather stations collect historical records that can be statistically analyzed to determine the climate at their particular location?

      True, one station's data over time is a climate anecdote for the larger region, but you need only skim the article to determine that the scientists who did the study are well aware of the lack of historical data for the Antarctic mai
  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @08:52PM (#42378435) Homepage Journal

    Is 4.4 much? Or is it not so much?
    Scientific articles that suddenly use Fahrenheit are ... disgusting.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Same reason you weight yourself in stone [wikipedia.org] when you are on a diet. It makes the numbers sound better.

  • From the article "[..] average annual temperatures in the center of the ice sheet that are nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit below freezing." What is that, -50F or -18F?

    "Celcius below freezing" I can understand, but not Fahrenheit or Kelvin. Well I suppose Kelvin could make sense, "Kelvin below freezing" would mean exactly the same as "Celcius below freezing".

    • by bunratty (545641) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @08:58PM (#42378477)
      Kelvins below freezing would not make any sense. Kelvins are absolute units. 0 K is absolute zero. 1 K is one degree Celsius above absolute zero. On the other hand, degrees Fahrenheit below freezing makes perfect sense. One degree Fahrenheit below freezing is 31 degrees Fahrenheit.
      • Its all part of those in science who are evil and want to confuse you. I've also wondered the same thing, but if your just measuring a differential temperature 1K is the same as 1C when talking relative temperature.

      • by decora (1710862) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @09:13PM (#42378555) Journal

        It's how Geordi solved the locked intercooler problem in season 7 episode 14 - the Ferengi warp coils had damaged the nydomium lines to the point where crystalline anti-pores were building up inside the reaction chamber. He had to redirect the hauser inverters to counterfeed through their own backup loop just to keep the Marfa separators from clogging.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Kelvins below freezing would not make any sense. (...) One degree Fahrenheit below freezing is 31 degrees Fahrenheit.

        Negative Kelvins would make no sense, but as long as the freezing point is 0 C = 32 F = 273.15 K then one degree Kelvin below freezing would be 272.15 K. Why should it be any different for Kelvins than for Fahrenheit?

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        Kelvins below freezing would not make any sense. Kelvins are absolute units. 0 K is absolute zero.

        -50K makes no sense, but 50K below freezing (assuming pure water at STP) would not have ambiguous meaning, as the only two options, 273-50, and 0-50, one of which is "normal" and the other is not, so we take the only one with meaning. 50 below freezing in F is silly. 32-50 is more complicated than -18F, and there's no reason to prefer 32-50 over -18F.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      From the article "[..] average annual temperatures in the center of the ice sheet that are nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit below freezing." What is that, -50F or -18F?

      "Celcius below freezing" I can understand, but not Fahrenheit or Kelvin. Well I suppose Kelvin could make sense, "Kelvin below freezing" would mean exactly the same as "Celcius below freezing".

      When you say "degrees C below freezing" it would be reasonable to assume that by "freezing" you mean the freezing point of water, because that is what Celcius is calibrated to.

      Fahrenheit is calibrated to the temperature of an salt + icy water solution (I think - or at least something like that), so if you said "degrees F below freezing" it could be a little ambiguous as to what you mean, at least to someone from a country that no longer uses the older measures. (My first guess would be "degrees F below the

  • by Oceanplexian (807998) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @08:58PM (#42378475) Homepage
    In a few centuries we'll all be buying beachfront Antarctic condos.
  • West Antarctica... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ferretman (224859) <ferretman@@@gameai...com> on Sunday December 23, 2012 @09:08PM (#42378529) Homepage
    ...is an interesting place. It "stick out" more than the rest of the continent and hence is surrounded by more water, and it's home to at least 6 surface volcanoes (http://icecap.us/images/uploads/AntarcticVolcanoes2.jpg).

    A few years back scientists discovered at least a bunch of sub-oceanic volcanoes with at least one merrily bubbling away. They remarked on how warm the waters were and how this had caused unique "oases" of lifeforms all along the extent. (http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/press/press_releases/press_release.php?id=1541}

    These and the unusual "surrounded by water" nature of this area are more likely contributors to localized melting.

    Ferret
  • Meh. (Score:2, Funny)

    by PPH (736903)

    Call me when Greenland is warm enough to support agriculture.

  • by wakeboarder (2695839) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @09:27PM (#42378633)

    This is a better link, and has more info: http://phys.org/news/2012-12-rapid-west-antarctic-ice-sheet.html [phys.org]

    • You know this map says to me that Antarctica has warmed up 0.3C (or K) and quite possibly that one station in antartica is out of sync... And since this data is only from the last ~50 years, I don't feel the need to get worked up about it. By the way isn't the global average in the past higher than the 0.3C shown here?

  • by swell (195815) <jabberwock AT poetic DOT com> on Sunday December 23, 2012 @09:35PM (#42378653)

    I'm having a little trouble visualizing this concept.
    I can imagine North, or South Antarctica, but those don't seem very useful either.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Thank you. I'm glad I wasn't the only one. I'm guessing it's the left side, as one would view it on a map where North America is on the left, and Asia is on the right. The right side would be the east side I guess.
      • by ballpoint (192660)

        The right side would be the east side I guess.

        And where do you guess the wrong side to be ?

    • by vmxeo (173325)

      I'm having a little trouble visualizing this concept.
      I can imagine North, or South Antarctica, but those don't seem very useful either.

      And here I thought the cardinal directions for that continent were North, South, More South, and Suddenly North Again.

    • Well, if you look at a map with a "coordinate system" that means longitude and latitude, you will see the 0 meridian (latitude) goes straight through the pole. So left of this meridian is west, right from it is east.

      OTOH everything towards the pole (in this case) is south and everything away from the pole is north, so this might be confusing ;D

    • by swell (195815)

      Why is this comment attached to WEST Antarctica?

      An intrepid outdoorsman went exploring for the day. From his cabin he walked south five miles, then turned west and walked another 8 miles. He saw nothing of interest until then when he discovered a big scary bear. He paused long enough to take some pictures from a safe distance with his new Nikon camera with a 300mm lens. He walked the five miles back to the cabin to edit the new photos on his Mac PowerBook.

      What color was the bear?

    • No weirder than the western hemisphere of the earth when you think about it. Which is exactly where it is. Of course you Americans make it harder for yourselves if you insist on putting the US in the centre of the map. Or should that be center?

    • Re:WEST Antarctica? (Score:4, Informative)

      by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Monday December 24, 2012 @08:06AM (#42380729)

      It's a reference to the Western/Eastern Hemisphere, not magnetic or rotational west.

      "West Antarctica" is the bit that's south of South America. "East Antarctica" is the bit that south of southern Asia. The dividing line is the Prime Meridian (ie, from Greenwich around the International Date Line, through both poles.)

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @10:24PM (#42378873) Homepage Journal
    This is not about climate, is about temper. The measurement was done in the base now known as Angry Byrd.
  • Melting Antartica (Score:5, Interesting)

    by manu0601 (2221348) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @10:43PM (#42378965)

    Well, if we manage to melt Antartica, we are in hot waters!

    Here is the sea rise interactive map [firetree.net]. You can choose how much sea level rise and see if you still live on land. I recall melting the whole Antartica would cause a sea rise of 70 meters. I do not know if it includes water thermal dilatation, but I hope it does.

    • " I do not know if it includes water thermal dilatation, but I hope it does."

      I'm not sure, but if you add all the rest of the ice that could melt, apparently it's 80 meters.

      http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs2-00/ [usgs.gov]

      I live far inland and a couple of hundred meters above sea level, so I figure I'm safe in any case. But the lake I can see from my house is only 70 meters above sea level. The land of the fjords is going to get a lot more fjords, I think.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Well, and the stupid map doesn't cover most of Alaska, so I can't check myself.
  • Innnn... West Antartica, born and raised...
    On an iceberg is where I spent most of my days...
    Chilling out maxin' relaxin' all cool
    And shooting some icicles outside the school...

    I'll spare you poor folks the rest...

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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