Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"As Clever as It Gets"

Crikey (which I don't receive) and The Australian have both reported on recent changes to the Antarctic Ice sheets which have left one - the Wilkins Ice Shelf - at risk of breaking free from the rest. The reports are most likely based on this British Antarctic Survey (BAS) press release.

But don't be fooled by any of it, particularly statements from self-styled scientists:

Professor [David] Vaughan, who in 1993 predicted that the northern part of Wilkins Ice Shelf was likely to be lost within 30 years if climate warming on the Peninsula were to continue at the same rate, says,

"Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula yet to be threatened. I didn't expect to see things happen this quickly. The ice shelf is hanging by a thread – we'll know in the next few days or weeks what its fate will be."

If the Wilkins shelf does detach, Professor Vaughn would be well advised to stop and consider this before he claims an "I told you so" - despite the impressive size of the Wilkins shelf there's plenty more Antarctic ice where that came from. And while the BAS gets its knickers in a knot because "Several ice shelves have retreated in the past 30 years - six of them collapsing completely (Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller and the Jones Ice Shelf.)", wiser folk, like Jennifer Marohasy are keeping their sang-froid. Because at a mere 0.3% of the total ice sheet, the Wilkins sheet is an insignificant fraction of all the ice that would have to be melted before the sheet is gone completely. As long as the rest stays put, we evidently have nothing to worry about, because anthropogenic global warming can't be happening. Stands to reason, dunnit?

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