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Earth Science

Geothermal Heat Contributing To West Antarctic Ice Sheet Melting 387

bricko sends this news 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.
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Geothermal Heat Contributing To West Antarctic Ice Sheet Melting

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  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @03:39AM (#47209887) Homepage
    The Thwaites Glacier is melting because of Geothermal heat rather than AGW? I must admit that I'm astonished. Not by the cause of the melting, but by the fact that the discovery is being announced without any attempt to spin this as proof of AGW.
  • by Trachman ( 3499895 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @03:42AM (#47209895) Journal
    I am siding with those that the climate changes. In my opinion it does. If CO2 curbing means more direct taxes on me, then I am against it.
  • Regardless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @03:47AM (#47209913)

    of whether humans are the cause of global warming, we should stop pollution for it's own sake! Even if we are 0% responsible, we should still cut the amount of stuff we put into the air and water.

  • by sg_oneill ( 159032 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @03:49AM (#47209923)

    If CO2 curbing means more direct taxes on me, then I am against it.

    Then quit pissing in the commons, disconnect your power, buy a solar powered (ONLY) car, avoid anything made with , well anything.

    And then, after your satisfied your not increasing the risk to me and everyone else, I think it would be ok to not have any taxes go to cleaning up your mess.

    Otherwise, quit freeloading off others, denialist commie.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @03:53AM (#47209941)

    And queue the alarmists that will take every little thing and blow so moronically out of proportion that it bears no resemblance to the data or science.

    Both sides are enemies of reason and science. If you have a vested emotional interest in a given conclusion and are inclined to ignore evidence that contradicts that position or inclined to exaggerate/fabricate evidence that supports your position then you're an enemy of reason and science.

    And BOTH sides of this issue have lots of those people.

    There is a moderate middle that just wants to hear the science and deal with this in a reasonable fashion. But they're shouted down by the fanatics on either side that scream "YOU"RE WITH US OR AGAINST US" while foaming at the mouth like diseased animals.

    That is what needs to stop. This issue have been hijacked by political interests... left and right when really it should supersede the factional struggles in our political system.

    Global warming is not an issue to be used to profit the political ambitions of democrats or republicans. Socialists or capitalists... or any other label you'd prefer.

    Global warming must be an issue that is dealt with in a respectful, bipartisan, and transparent fashion.

    Anything short of that and any claim to scientific purity is GONE. Utterly irrelevant. It becomes nothing more then a political struggle with the issue of truth being irrelevant to the process. Power politics against power politics. One screaming stupid face against another screaming stupid face... the winner being decided by who can shout louder and longer.


    Do you want this to be about science or do you want this to be about who can yell louder? Because if you want it to be about science, the politics need to be put away.

    And for that, you're going to have to stop trying to twist people's arms and ACTUALLY convince them. Which will mean compromises and respect for contradiction. It will mean going through a long drawn out process where there is no roughshodding, steamrolling, or other terms for the attempt to push things through without going through due process.

    Will this take awhile? How fast is the currently process going? What we have no is sort of like stop and go traffic. Everything rushes forward for a moment and the alarmists think they've suddenly broken through. Only to have the whole thing either stop or outright reverse itself taking away most of those gains. Graph the progress over time and its not going fast if its going at all.

    So why not try something else? It can't be slower then what you already have and you might find it more pleasant to actually talk respectfully with people rather then try to undermine their very right to participate in the process at all.

  • by Arty Choke ( 3690395 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @03:59AM (#47209963)
    You don't have it straight yet. That would require reading the source article, which you obviously have not done. The study shows that geothermal heat is CONTRIBUTING to the melting, not the sole cause. The warming ocean is causing the surface melt, while it appears that geothermal heat may be melting the underside, increasing instability. There is not a word in the article that contradicts AGW. Sorry to disappoint you.
  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @04:02AM (#47209979)

    What is not curbing CO2 means 2 or 3 times the cost of curbing it? That's what a lot of economic analyses show.

  • by MadKeithV ( 102058 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @04:41AM (#47210157)
    I have to respond to this, because it's clearly an attempt at a "balanced" view but missing some very important key points that distort your opinion.

    First of all reducing the AGW debate to "both sides" with a neutral "middle ground" is disingenuous - in the count of number of people the balance is very strongly in favor of accepting AGW to degrees ( e.g. this recent set of studies arriving at between 91-97% consensus [theguardian.com]). The denialists get disproportionate attention, which is actually a known type of political manipulation (e.g. argument to moderation [wikipedia.org]) and this type of attention has been shown to disproportionately affect people who aren't specialized in the subject matter to moderate their position when no such moderation is required (more on this subject, though I can't find the scientific paper about it right now [bmj.com].

    Second, appeal to "scientific purity" is overshooting. Science is constantly advancing, improving models, replacing wrong assumptions with less wrong assumptions. There is nothing "pure" about it, and in no way does it need to be to advance the cause and be useful to our lives. Words such as "purity" are much too loaded to be used, exactly because of the scientific approach. There's no need to deny - the scientific world does not have all the T's crossed and the I's dotted on AGW, just as it doesn't on gravity, physics and quantum theory, but we still happily cross bridges every day. The degree of certainty has long reached sufficient levels to warrant seriously looking at how to realistically (not politically, stupid carbon credits) mitigate instead of discussing a black and white position on AGW's existence.

    And thirdly the AGW debate is much bigger than the USA. I understand that you have bipartisan issues across the board (not just AGW, and to be clear: I think both parties are in the wrong) but that doesn't extend to the rest of the world and this is a global issue.

    So I think that while I don't entirely agree with your argumentation, I agree with your position. AGW is a science thing - and science has agreed that it exists though not to which degree. The challenge is to find solutions, and that's also with science.

    Finally, I find the actual article very intriguing and somewhat challenging to my own views on AGW, as evidenced by my first thoughts on this: could it be that the geology of the antarctic is becoming destabilized because of the lessening of the weight of the ice sheet, in turn causing more geological activity? But that's a conjecture from an explanation that wouldn't challenge AGW, and real science must of course also look for other hypotheses.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @05:15AM (#47210323)

    You're just trying to justify the ongoing politicization of the issue.

    Which is fine. The price of that is that the science is irrelevant and that the issue becomes one purely of politics.

    That is the price. And that is not a decision I can make for you. You must make that decision yourself for yourself. But I do think its important that you understand that this choice has a cost.

    You are calculating that it is more expedient to attain your goals by applying political pressure rather then go through the tedious process of actually gathering consent.

    However, in doing that you force opposing forces to likewise employ political pressure. And when political pressure meets political pressure - logic is irrelevant.

    I find it to be rather puzzling that people that think they have the stronger scientific argument have done more then any other to make the science irrelevant to the discussion. You've dramatically undermined your position by doing this and none of the science will be relevant in the discussion until the nature of the discussion changes.

    You're going to bring up poor little villagers in the pacific that have lost their village or something due to encroaching tides due to AGW... and the opposition is going to talk about rust belt cities turned into urban wastelands due to punitive ecological controls.

    You are not winning the political argument. The international coalition is toothless and if anything more against you then for you. And that is made all the stronger by the poor economy.

    In short you have two options.

    1. You can have the humility to have the discussion the way you should have in the first place without dismissing people or calling the science settled.

    2. You can make this political, render the science irrelevant, and lose to entrenched economic forces.

    Choose. You can moderate your position and actually get somewhere while enlightening everyone to the risks and problems of the issue. Or get downed out in a political screaming match and lose.

    I know you don't like your choices but those are your choices. Pick one.

  • by narcc ( 412956 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @07:06AM (#47210741) Journal

    The science is settled.

    I don't know what that can possibly mean. Science, last time I checked, does not work that way.

  • Re:Regardless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bigwheel ( 2238516 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @08:36AM (#47211121)

    In that case, we should be focused on pollutants rather than CO2. CO2 is a trace gas that is essential to life.

    CO2 is not even listed among pollutants in the Clean Air Act. It was put into that category by EPA as an executive measure, after the Supreme Court authorized them in 2007 to do so. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org] This was done for the sole purpose of furthering the global warming agenda.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @08:41AM (#47211155)

    Is that a typical example of your logic, or are you trolling, or just hoping to fool stupid people? On a continent that's 5.4 million square miles, with 11,000 miles of coastline, you pick the stats for the far inland south pole station -- probably one of the coldest places on Earth at that altitude -- and conclude that since no melting can occur there, it can't occur anywhere on the whole continent?

    Here's a little hint for you: you know that 11,000 miles of icy coastline I just mentioned? Guess what's rubbing up next to the ice? Liquid water. Get where the warmest temperatures are? Near that big mass of liquid water: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

    For God's sake, educate yourself. Because Fox News and El Rushbo aren't doing the job.

  • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @08:47AM (#47211189)

    The science is settled.

    I don't know what that can possibly mean. Science, last time I checked, does not work that way.

    Yes, it does. It's the only way for practical research to ever happen. You can't go around questioning fundamental assumptions at every turn. This doesn't mean that those fundamental assumptions are "settled" for all time, but from a practical standpoint, science must treat some core assumptions as effectively "settled" in order to get on with any detailed research.

    Example: I accept that in normal everyday life, that light obeys the "Law of Reflection." That is SETTLED science. When I'm driving my car, I don't wonder: "Gee, maybe I should do another experiment with the rearview mirror just to be sure," nor do I worry, "Oh, maybe the Law of Reflection won't work today, so I should be careful and not rely on my mirrors to tell me where things are."

    More importantly, if something goes wrong with my mirrors in the real world, my first thought is definitely NOT "Oh, the Law of Reflection is probably wrong." Instead, I assume the mirrors are damaged or poorly designed or something else. At this point, that's the ONLY reasonable conclusion to come to -- as a scientist.

    The science is settled.

    That's what we mean by "settled" in everyday life. When we say a disagreement is "settled," for example, we don't mean that we are denying the possibilityof ever disagreeing again. We mean that we've reached a practical stability point, and it's not worth continuing the discussion further at this time.

    From a scientific standpoint, it's necessary to establish these core assumptions within a research paradigm so that we can work on actually refining our work without running around questioning fundamental assumptions all the time. If you think Thomas Kuhn's notions of paradigms and scientific "revolutions" [wikipedia.org] is too extreme, a very reasonable alternative is Imre Lakatos's notion of research programs [wikipedia.org], which was developed in response to Kuhn. From the Wikipedia article:

    A Lakatosian research programme is based on a hard core of theoretical assumptions that cannot be abandoned or altered without abandoning the programme altogether. More modest and specific theories that are formulated in order to explain evidence that threatens the 'hard core' are termed auxiliary hypotheses. Auxiliary hypotheses are considered expendable by the adherents of the research programme - they may be altered or abandoned as empirical discoveries require in order to 'protect' the 'hard core'. Whereas Popper was generally read as hostile toward such ad hoc theoretical amendments, Lakatos argued that they can be progressive, i.e. productive, when they enhance the programme's explanatory and/or predictive power, and that they are at least permissible until some better system of theories is devised and the research programme is replaced entirely.

    For the majority of climate scientists today, the assumption of global warming has become part of a "hard core" in their research programs. They believe that it's now more productive to treat this assumption as "settled" and focus on investigating other aspects of climate problems, rather than worrying about continuing to debate this fundamental question.

    I suppose there are a few scientists who would continue to debate this issue specifically about global warming. But you simply cannot deny that actual scientific research in general necessarily has to accept "core assumptions" as "settled" in order to make any progress.

  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @09:06AM (#47211357) Homepage
    just saying its not political, doesnt make it true. This is a topic that has been abused by politicians in the same way immigration and drug reform have been. Both sides like to pay lip service but they only talk about it because they know it divides, We have real pressing issues that are affecting us *TODAY* that politicians dont talk about in any real substance because they would rather have americans bickering about abortion, something that is a blip on the radar in reality, or the death penalty, where we have had an avg of 2 executions a year since 76, in other words a non issue.

    meanwhile they fundraise on global warming and these other issues while our bridges rot away, our people are living paycheck to paycheck more and more, and no one wants to talk about those issues seriously
  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @09:11AM (#47211403)

    Which means you're justifying not negociating but imposing your will. Which means you're going for the political option.

    Which means the science under your policy will be irrelevant as to whether you succeed or fail to impose your will. It will come down literally to whether your faction is more politically powerful then your opposition.

    The right or wrong of it will be irrelevant.

    Do the logical math. Watch Variable1 interact with Variable2 through EquationX.

    Check your premises and think the issue through.

    What you are saying is "I think I'm right so everyone should do what I say"... that's great but you have to convince people not only that you're right but that your solutions to the problem are right.

    If you refuse to go through that process then what you have to do is overwhelm/strong arm people into bending to your will. And that means whether you are right or wrong won't matter. You can strong arm people into saying the sun is made of puppies that way. Look at what is going on in the Islamic world for a good example of what I'm talking about. Do you think things work that way over there because someone convinced everyone that was the best way to run a society? No. They just threatened to kill anyone that disagreed with them. They've fought literally hundreds of wars over that over the last 400 years. You have no idea the bloodshed. But they got what they wanted.

    And being right or wrong doesn't matter if you're forcing people. You're just forcing them. End of story.

    I'd like to think my society is better then that. That we can arrive at common action through a less coercive policy. But that will require patience and flexibility on everyone's part to arrive at action that a plurality feels acceptable.

    Any such policy is not going to make radicals on either side happy. The radicals on the right and radicals on the left will not like it because they both want the reciprocal extreme options.

    What shall it be? Are you willing to try to go through a rational dialog on the issue or do you want to use power politics to compel people?

    Because the choices you make there will have consequences as how things are run and maintained.

    If you maintain your authority at gun point you can get people to comply. But the instant the gun wavers.. is dropped... things can shift very quickly and possibly violently.

    This is an appeal for moderation, patience, and civility.

    The environmental movement has damaged itself by allowing itself to be hijacked by political factions that seek to use it for their own selfish political gain. That said, if those same political forces dominate they will probably give you everything you want.

    So that's a calculation you'll have to make. Of course, if you lose politically... you'll find no cooperation in the political organizations that struggled to shut it down. They'll oppose you reflexively.

  • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @09:57AM (#47211783)

    Lots of people want to talk about population. In fact, it's a major topic. There are plenty of ways to decrease the global population without resorting to killing people. The easiest way is to increase the quality of life for people in countries which are experiencing a large population growth. Happy people whose children are likely to grow up tend to have fewer children. After a few generations of that, the population stabilises.

    I know it's easy to think "too many people = we should kill some", but that's beyond childish.

  • by dltaylor ( 7510 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @09:55PM (#47218953)

    When the Panama Isthmus closed about three million years ago, changing the oceanic circulation patterns, the current galcial/interglacial climate began. Antartica has had ice for over two million years.

  • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @05:44AM (#47220443)
    The science is in. The causes are known and quantified. At this point you are not being sceptical but cynical, and that's something entirely different.
  • Re:Regardless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @05:50AM (#47220463)

    It's not funny, it's science. Our world, where we live, is currently not like the Cretaceous. Should it become like the Cretaceous, humanity would suffer massively, as we and our industry are simply not prepared for living in such a climate. We also don't have the luxury of the relatively-slow lead-up to the Cretaceous climate, as if we keep pumping out CO2 our climate will change very quickly indeed.

    I guess it's easy to get confused if you use Nat Geo as your source for scientific learning.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun