At a recent conference in Oslo, Al Gore pounded one of his favorite drums. “We have to act, and we have to act quickly because we don’t want to cross this tipping point,” he warned. This particular tipping point (among the many tipping points in Mr. Gore’s collection) is the proclaimed melting of the world’s polar ice packs and glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere.
Mr. Gore regularly worries about ice melting in the Southern Hemisphere as well. In recent testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Gore warned:
“We already know that the Antarctic Peninsula is warming at three to five times the global average rate. That is why the Larsen B ice shelf, which was the size of Rhode Island, already has collapsed. Several other ice shelves have also collapsed in the last 20 years. Another large shelf, the Wilkins ice shelf-which is roughly the size of Northern Ireland- is now beginning to disintegrate right before our very eyes. A recent study in the journal Science has now confirmed that the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming.”
But Mr. Gore really needs to keep up with the news. In a recent study of Arctic ice, (results thoughtfully translated by Benny Peiser of CCnet), researchers found that arctic ice is, in reality, about twice as thick as they’d previously thought. “ Normally, the researchers point out, newly formed ice measures some two meters in thickness after two years. “Here, we measured ice thickness up to four meters,” said a spokesperson for Bremerhaven’s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. At present, this result contradicts the warming of the sea water, according to the scientists.”
As for the Antarctic, it’s true, the Antarctic Peninsula is warming and melting some, but the bulk of ice in the Antarctic is growing, not shrinking. A study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters (reported in The Australian) observes that “Sea ice around Antarctica has been increasing at a rate of 100,000sq km a decade since the 1970s.” The researchers attribute this growth to the Ozone Hole, but as Steven Goddard points out on the great Watts Up With That Blog, “Oh, and one minor problem with the ozone hole theory “The ozone hole occurs during the Antarctic spring, from September to early December” – but the positive ice anomaly occurred during the autumn and winter (March through July). And while the ozone hole was present, ice was normal. So the ice excess probably has nothing to do with the ozone hole.” The authors of the study attempt to address the issue, but their explanation seems less than convincing. But whatever the cause, the observed growth in sea ice around Antarctica contradicts Gore’s general claims that the ice is melting there.
Mr. Gore claims the mantle of science when he speaks about climate change, and he loves to talk about the “consensus” of political scientists, but the world would be better off if he paid a bit more attention to the data, and a bit less to the drama of climate change.