Ice sheet melting: estimates still uncertain, experts warn

Posted: December 19, 2019 by oldbrew in climate, Measurement, modelling, sea levels, Uncertainty
Tags: , ,

Rinks Glacier, West Greenland
[image credit: NSIDC]


Estimates are always uncertain to some degree – that’s why they’re called estimates. So an uncertain estimate can’t be all that useful. They admit ‘there are still key deficiencies in the models’ — but these are usually ignored when alarmist climate predictions are headlined. As ever, ice-related sea level claims should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Estimates used by climate scientists to predict the rate at which the world’s ice sheets will melt are still uncertain despite advancements in technology, new research shows.

These ice sheet estimates feed directly into projections of sea-level rise resulting from climate change, says Phys.org.

They are made by measuring how much material ice sheets are gaining or losing over time, known as mass balance, to assess their long-term health.

Snowfall increases the mass of an ice sheet, while ice melting or breaking off causes it to lose mass, and the overall balance between these is crucial.

Although scientists now have a much better understanding of the melting behaviour of ice sheets than they did in previous decades, there are still significant uncertainties about their future melt rates, researchers found.

The new study, published in the scientific journal Earth Science Reviews, shows that despite recent advances in computer modelling of ice sheets in response to climate change, there are still key deficiencies in the models used to estimate the long-term health of ice sheets and related global sea-level predictions.

Improving these estimates could prove vital to informing the scale of response needed to mitigate the potential impacts of climate change.

Edward Hanna, Professor of Climate Science and Meteorology at the University of Lincoln, UK, co-ordinated the research in co-operation with a leading international group of glaciologists.

Professor Hanna said: “The ice sheets are highly sensitive indicators of climate change, but despite significant recent improvements in data and knowledge, we still don’t understand enough about how rapidly they are likely to lose mass during and beyond the current century.

“Enhanced observations of ice sheets, mainly from satellite data fed into improved computer simulations, are vital to help refine predictions of future sea-level rise that will result from continued global warming. They are urgently needed to assist climate adaptation and impact planning across the world.”

Continued here.

Comments
  1. hunterson7 says:

    Another infomercial to raise money for climate science based on selling fear.
    There is no SLR crisis. There is no icecap melting crisis. There is a massive ethics in science crisis.

  2. Gamecock says:

    Skimming the article, I find no truth to anything in it. A masterpiece of fake science.

    ‘Although scientists now have a much better understanding of the melting behaviour of ice sheets than they did in previous decades’

    It used to be that when the sea ice reached its melting point, it melted. But they know better, now.

  3. oldbrew says:

    Ice sheets are on land, hence mass balance.

  4. stpaulchuck says:

    in the meantime the antarctic is still piling on ice at a high rate
    global mass balance

  5. Coeur de Lion says:

    The uncertainty lies in the fact that for example Arctic ice has bottomed out at over four million sq km every third week in September (save 2012) for 12 years and no account is taken of the situation in the mid 1930s. So someone who believes in catastrophic AGW will suffer ‘uncertainty’. I sympathise with that- it must be devastating.

  6. oldbrew says:

    Reminder: the article is about ice sheets, not *sea* ice 🙂

    Update: although the first can become the second!

  7. dennisambler says:

    “As ever, ice-related sea level claims should be taken with a large pinch of salt.”

    But that would make it melt even faster!

  8. oldbrew says:

    dennisambler says: December 22, 2019 at 1:01 pm
    – – –
    Tricky one…

    When sea ice forms, most of the salt is pushed into the ocean water below the ice, although some salt may become trapped in small pockets between ice crystals. Water below sea ice has a higher concentration of salt and is more dense than surrounding ocean water, and so it sinks. In this way, sea ice contributes to the ocean’s global “conveyor-belt” circulation.

    https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/seaice/index.html
    – – –
    But sprinkling salt on top of sea ice could be different 😎