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Earth Science

Stronger Winds Explain Puzzling Growth of Sea Ice In Antarctica 236

Posted by Soulskill
from the ice-goblin-theory-slides-into-obscurity dept.
vinces99 writes "As NOAA announces a new record for the extent of sea ice in Antarctica, a new modeling study to be published in the Journal of Climate shows that stronger polar winds lead to an increase in Antarctic sea ice, even when Earth's overall climate is getting warmer. The study (abstract) by Jinlun Zhang, a University of Washington oceanographer, shows that stronger westerly winds swirling around the South Pole can explain 80 percent of the increase in Antarctic sea ice volume during the past three decades. The polar vortex that swirls around the South Pole is not just stronger than it was when satellite records began in the 1970s, it also shoves the sea ice together to cause ridging. Stronger winds also drive ice faster, which leads to still more deformation and ridging. This creates thicker, longer-lasting ice, while exposing surrounding water and thin ice to the blistering cold winds that cause more ice growth. A computer simulation that includes detailed interactions between wind and sea shows that thick ice — more than 6 feet deep — increased by about 1 percent per year from 1979 to 2010, while the amount of thin ice stayed fairly constant. The end result is a thicker, slightly larger ice pack that lasts longer into the summer."
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Stronger Winds Explain Puzzling Growth of Sea Ice In Antarctica

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  • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @05:53PM (#44878767) Journal

    So it's still code as buggery down there?

    • Re: Still Cold (Score:3, Informative)

      by Truth_Quark (219407)
      Eastern Antarctica is affected by ozone loss, which is a strong greenhouse gas. It's still cold. The Antarctic peninsular is warming at about three times the global average. That's getting quite balmy.
  • Smells like "Snowball Earth" scenario.

  • Wat? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I really did believe in global warming, but now even I am beginning to wonder about the way every event that seems to discount climate change predictions is attributed to an outlying event, while everything that seems to prove climate change is attributed to human caused global warming...

    • I'm not clear. How does this disprove climate change?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dunbal (464142) *
        In exactly the same way that the lack of "divine manifestation" disproves the existence of god. Unless, of course, you "believe". Then you'll see divine manifestations everywhere, even in your breakfast cereal.
        • In exactly the same way that the lack of "divine manifestation" disproves the existence of god.

          You lack a basic understanding of science, reading and who knows what else.

          It is a verifiable fact that the earth's temperature has gone up recently.

          It is also a verifiable fact that the antarctic sea ice levels have grown recently.

          Now, do try to engage your brain, disassociate the facts from politics, talking heads, lobby groups and whatever other stuff you prefer to listen.

          Two things: the earth is warmer and the

          • by Bongo (13261)

            And we are supposed to forget about the talk that the arctic would be ice free, that children will not know what show is anymore, that shifting rain belts will ruin millions of farmers, that disappearing glaciers will threaten millions of people's water supply etc etc etc and all the vast number of connected effects which mean it is highly unjust of you to emit CO2 because it is killing or flooding or spreading more disease and famine to many poor people around the world... all these things have been sugges

            • And we are supposed to forget about the talk

              Depends. Are you interested in the science or the OMG DOOM predictions from various pundits.

              Fine, the temperature has gone up.

              Yes. Yes it has.

            • Ummmm... the Arctic is less Icy (one side of the Antarctic is more icy and one side less icy).

              This year saw record droughts across the US.

              While no single event or year can be directly connected it's pretty easy to see why scientists might think the arctic will be ice free in the not too distant future.

              http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/ice-models-reality.jpg [skepticalscience.com]

          • by Dunbal (464142) *
            A much simpler answer is you lack a basic understanding of metaphor.
    • Re:Wat? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Lendrick (314723) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @06:37PM (#44879173) Homepage Journal

      The global average temperature is still trending up. But to consider things a bit more accurately:

      Think of the earth as one big system. For the most part, energy only comes in and goes out through the atmosphere. At the moment, gases in the atmosphere are causing the earth to radiate slightly less energy out into space than it takes in. Before we got started dumping CO2 into the atmosphere, earth was in a state of equilibrium, but that equilibrium has been disrupted. Provided we can stabilize that amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we should reach a new state of equilibrium, and with any luck, it will be similar to the one we were in before.

      If not, then there are a lot of things that could happen, and most of them aren't good.

      Extra energy in the atmosphere often becomes heat. This is pretty much the simplest thing that can happen.

      Extra energy can also go into warming the land. This seems like a good thing, because the land can act as a buffer by absorbing energy from the atmosphere, but if the land gets too warm and old swamps start to thaw out, large quantities of methane will be released into the air, which will further decrease the earth's ability to radiate excess energy.

      Extra energy can also cause increased evaporation of water from the ocean, which increases cloud cover and precipitation. This is why snow isn't evidence that global warming has somehow reversed. That being said, cloud cover and snow are both white, which increases the amount of light reflected back out into space. The trouble is, we're not going to reach an equilibrium state until the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere level off. Increased precipitation might stave off big rises in temperature for a while. Or, it's possible that precipitation will increase so much that the ice sheets will expand very rapidly, causing the earth to radiate away *more* energy than it takes in, which could set off an ice age, which would be really bad. Or, it's possible that cloud cover and precipitation aren't enough to counteract the warming effect at all, in which case we'll continue to see the heating that we're seeing now.

      In any case, as long as we're increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the air, we're pushing things further and further out of equilibrium. If we can't get things under control, it is inevitable that things will eventually swing wildly out of control, because there are only so many potential buffer effects that might absorb or reflect the excess energy. Take the aforementioned cloud cover and precipitation. Since we can increase the greenhouse gases in the air indefinitely, even if cloud cover and precipitation are enough to equalize things for a while, eventually they aren't going to be enough. Or, as I said earlier, they might spiral out of control and become too much. We don't know for sure. But eventually, bad things will happen.

      Maybe if we're lucky it'll be in a few hundred years. If we're not so lucky, maybe a few decades.

      • Re:Wat? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @08:18PM (#44879869)

        Equilibrium? Extra energy often becoming heat? Ancient swamps thawing? [worldoceanreview.com] Additional atmospheric water vapor helps cooling? [nasa.gov], Apocalyptic heat death in a few decades?

        I'm really not trying to be mean to you, because we need to stop poisoning ourselves. But posts like yours do not help. Your post is a "deniers" wet dream. It's makes people who want to be better stewards of the planet look like crazy people.

        The temperature trends look like they are going up at an insane rate if you look at the last 500, or 1000 years. But if you look at the last 200K years of half or million years, it's debatable.

        The earth is not and hopefully will never be in a state of equilibrium any time soon. Do you know what is in a much closer state of atmospheric equilibrium? The moon is a pretty good place to look. Mars isn't bad either. I don't know about you, but I like our atmosphere. As long as we have it and there are living things on this planet, it will remain that way. Hopefully for a very long time.

        I'm not even going to get started on the heat energy thing

        I assume the link above is what you are referencing in regards to as "old swamps". At least that's what I'm guessing as I've never heard of the danger of thawing swamps. Plus there's a hell of a lot more methane in those formations than any swamp. It's also unknown if that methane will be released with rising temperature. But like you, I'd rather not find out. I would much prefer it remain an academic debate than see it put to the test.

        There is strong evidence for the Albedo effect [wikipedia.org]. However the link regarding atmospheric water vapor also seems to provide compelling evidence that water vapor in the atmosphere is also a strong greenhouse gas.

        I understand that trying to make this problem something dire that will affect most of us in our lifetimes seems like a way to make others more motivated. But when it doesn't happen in the ridiculously short time-frames you are using, it makes most people call BS. Spreading this amount of misinformation is really not helping. I apologize for sounding like an ass, but posts like yours make it too easy for those who don't give a shit to keep on not worrying about it.

        • by Lendrick (314723)

          The earth is not and hopefully will never be in a state of equilibrium any time soon. Do you know what is in a much closer state of atmospheric equilibrium? The moon is a pretty good place to look. Mars isn't bad either. I don't know about you, but I like our atmosphere. As long as we have it and there are living things on this planet, it will remain that way. Hopefully for a very long time.

          I think you misunderstand what I mean by "equilibrium". Perhaps I'm using the wrong word, but the sort of equilibrium

          • I understood what you meant, and it doesn't work that way. There are a myriad of very complex things that cause these changes. Obviously there's CO2 and methane. But you have volcanic activity, the sunspot cycle (which we continue to learn we don't necessarily understand), and just try to understand relationship of atmospheric temperatures and ocean currents. If you think you have that figured out then you can take a look at the impact of solar vs. cosmic winds. There was a story on /. recently that indicat

    • by tsotha (720379)
      It's like string theory - impossible to falsify. That's why it's not actually science.
  • is his inability to imagine he cannot explain every single thing. No matter where you mark time in history, you may rest assured that thinking men were fairly smug regarding the technology and science of their day.... there will hopefully always be much we have yet to comprehend.
  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @07:28PM (#44879535)
    I predict humans will observe the earth warming, then cooling, then warming, etc.. in a cycle that repeats itself over and over again with varying frequencies and amplitudes until such time humans become extinct and are replaced by a more evolved species that lacks the pretense of understanding a system as complex as the earth's macro climate.
    • by mysidia (191772)

      until such time humans become extinct and are replaced by a more evolved species that lacks the pretense of understanding a system as complex as the earth's macro climate.

      Why wait?

      I already understand earth's macro climate... it's very simple: When God cranks up the thermostat, the temperature increases. When God thinks it's too hot, he lowers the thermostat, and the temperature decreases. If he feels particularly sneaky one day; he lowers it a little more than usual, thus creating an ice age.

  • I seem to recall Superman having the ability to create ice by blowing a strong wind. Yep, must be Superman.
  • I think this shows one big problem in climate science and in science in general: There are only certain things that get funding, and there is no incentive to research other things that are as important and interesting.
    Climate science gets funding for research into things that are potentially dangerous. So they look for effects that make climate change worse. But they would never get much attention for a report on a mechanism that slows down the temperature rise, like growing antarctic ice that will increas

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein

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