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The Flooding of the Globe… I Mean, the Kiddie Pool

November 28, 2012

To update my take on the massive effects that climate is having on the world (summary: very little other than in the minds of well-off people), the Antarctic ice appears to be growing these days, not shrinking, and the polar ice caps, while melting, don’t do a lot for the sea rise.  Honestly, the ice in your tea doesn’t overflow the cup once it melts…  So there are a few other land masses covered by ice that would make a substantial difference to water levels if there was significant melt, and a lot of research on Greenland has said that things are still dire.  Or are they?

A new analysis of data from dedicated satellites shows that one of the main factors predicted to drive rising sea levels in future has been seriously overestimated, with major implications for climate talks currently underway in Doha.

The new methods involve filtering out noise from the data produced by the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft, sent into orbit with the aim of finding out just how much ice is melting from the world’s ice sheets and glaciers. Such water then runs off into the sea, providing one of the main potential drivers of sea level rise – which is itself perhaps the main reason to worry about climate change.

Essentially (…and go read the whole thing, and go read the Register more often.  They’re funny in a very English way.) scientists are doing a better job at filtering the noise out of the data they’re gathering.  And once the noise goes away, they’re finding a pretty steady-state signal.

While overall ice loss on Greenland consistently increased between 2003 and 2010, Harig and Simons found that it was in fact very patchy from region to region.

In addition, the enhanced detail of where and how much ice melted allowed the researchers to estimate that the annual acceleration in ice loss is much lower than previous research has suggested, roughly increasing by 8 billion tons every year. Previous estimates were as high as 30 billion tons more per year.

So let’s be clear.  The environment continues to change in some ways that are lowering total sea and land ice in the Northern Hemisphere.  While there are changes in the location of the sea and land ice in the Southern Hemisphere, it appears that the overall mass is growing there.  What we can’t say is that those levels are anywhere near causing a disaster.

I’m still happy to agree that the climate of various places in the Earth is changing, though I have not seen any concrete evidence that humans have any significant effect on the climate (in microcosm, perhaps, but that’s improved greatly in areas that I can see over the years).  What I don’t get is where that change is of disaster proportions.  Our greatest threats, as evidenced by the Northeast (and New Orleans before it) seem to be when the systems we have in place aren’t prepared for naturally occurring storms as opposed to a slow, inexorable death.

Sure, I could be wrong, but nobody’s really shown me evidence that I am yet.  I’m at least willing to be convinced.

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