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The South Pole is melting too

Published 23rd November 2009 - 32 comments - 5411 views -

The ice masses on Antarctica are melting into the oceans a recent study confirms. For the last seven years the rate of loss has been approximately 190 gigatonnes each year. And no, it didn't stall, it has increased.

The data is quite fresh: published in Nature Geoscience on 22nd of November 2009. And it agrees with another recent study of entirely different methodology which in 2008 estimated a loss of ice at about 196 ± 92 Gt yr-1.

A GRACEful study?

The research is based on measurements from the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) [project website, Wikipedia]. It's data from a satellite measuring gravity, hence indirectly mass. 79 monthly samples covering April 2002 to January 2009 have been used. Those measurements have been “cleaned” for noise such as atmospheric pressure and ocanic signals to produce accurate estimates for ice mass."Nature Antarctica 14" by Christian Revival Network

More precisely, the result is ice loss of about 190 ± 77 Gt yr-1. So it's a bit more precise than the 2008 study. Both studies vary in their estimates of regional changes. Apparently, the Amundsen Sea Embayment is losing the most ice: about 110 Gt yr-1. And at an accelerating rate during 2006-2009.

Less room for scepticism

That's yet another nail for the coffin of climate change scepticism. Fair enough: it hasn't been very obvious that the South Pole was melting. Three main explanations for this are the following [2, 3]:

  1. Ozone hole has had a cooling effect of 2 to 6 degrees; incl. increases in winter storms.

  2. Increased precipitation freshens cold surface water causing less mix with warmer water currents below hence colder water near the ice.

  3. More snow-ice created (due to both precipitation and storms).

Perhaps a fourth reason being wishful thinking by the sceptics? The mixed message from the south has led to claims of Antarctica disproving global warming [3, 4]. The GRACE studies does show much variability across the continent, including local ice mass increases.

Antarctica may soon be contributing significantly more to global sea-level rise.”

[1] (Source unless otherwise noted) Chen, J., Wilson, C., Blankenship, D., & Tapley, B. (2009). Accelerated Antarctic ice loss from satellite gravity measurements Nature Geoscience DOI: 10.1038/NGEO694




[2] What's Holding Antarctic Sea Ice Back From Melting?

[3] New Scientist / Climate myths: Antarctica is getting cooler, not warmer, disproving global warming

[4] Grist / ‘Antarctic ice is growing’—Well, probably not, but even if it were, we are not off the hook

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for

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Category: Climate Science, Polar Regions, | Tags: global warming, researchblogging, sea level rise, antarctica,


Wes on 24th November 2009:

All you do is write about problems, lets hear about solutions.

Benno Hansen on 24th November 2009:

Well, Wes… denying reality isn’t a solution.

Benno Hansen on 24th November 2009:

The Associated Press, Tue Nov 24, 2009 / Icebergs head from Antarctica for New Zealand

Mike on 29th November 2009:

Less room for scepticism?

Starting in 2006, GRACE began to detect lower gravity over East Antarctica, suggesting that the ice sheet was getting less massive. Exactly how much isn’t clear: the best guess is about 57 billion tons per year, but with a huge uncertainty of plus or minus 52 billion. That’s because Chen and his colleagues had to factor in something called Post Glacial Rebound, or PGR: during the last Ice Age, Antarctica had far more ice than it does today, and all that ice weighed down the underlying bedrock. With some of the ice gone, the rock is rising back up, like a mattress regaining its shape when a sleeper gets off — and as the depressed rock rises, so does the gravity it exerts on GRACE. “There’s large uncertainty in the models of PGR,” says Chen, “so there’s a corresponding uncertainty in how much ice is being lost.”

Feels rather roomy with all this 90% margin of error. This is what they call statistically insignificant.

It’s all rather irrelevant anyway. The oceans could boil away for all I care and you still wouldn’t be able to convince me that CO2 causes significant global warming. Because that is physically impossible.

Once again, this image says it all. Have a nice day.

Benno Hansen on 29th November 2009:

You forgot linking to the source of your quote, Mike: East Antarctica, Long Stable, Is Now Losing Ice.

Inconvenient headline?

““The amount [of decline] right now isn’t very big, but the trend is alarming,”


satellite observations have shown that the ice in both Greenland and West Antarctica is sliding into the sea faster than anyone expected.

And now it’s happening in East Antarctica as well”

Inconvenient content?

The 57 plus/minus 52 Gt stat is the regional measurement mentioned in the paper that is smallest and has the widest confidence interval. Conversely, the same stat for West Antarctica is 132 plus/minus 26 Gt. Nothing unusual about results in confidence intervals. Doesn’t really tell you about their confidence though wink

Benno Hansen on 29th November 2009:

You forgot linking to the source of your quote, Mike: East Antarctica, Long Stable, Is Now Losing Ice.

Inconvenient headline?

““The amount [of decline] right now isn’t very big, but the trend is alarming,”


satellite observations have shown that the ice in both Greenland and West Antarctica is sliding into the sea faster than anyone expected.

And now it’s happening in East Antarctica as well”

Inconvenient content?

The 57 plus/minus 52 Gt stat is the regional measurement mentioned in the paper that is smallest and has the widest confidence interval. Conversely, the same stat for West Antarctica is 132 plus/minus 26 Gt. Nothing unusual about results in confidence intervals. Doesn’t really tell you about their confidence though wink

Benno Hansen on 29th November 2009:

Doh! Meant ”...tell you about their significance wink

Mike on 29th November 2009:

Looks like I borked the bold text again. We all make mistakes >_>

For all this unexpected ice melt, you’d think sea levels would be exponentially rising or something. Unfortunately(?) recent sea levels have plateaued over the same time period as this study. The longer term trend over the past 150 years is fairly linear, despite massive increases in fossil fuel use since 1940, and countless “worse than we thought” studies and reports more recently. Last century showed a ~1.6mm rise in sea levels per year on average. Which translates to ~6 inches per century. More recent trends are 3.2mm per year since 1994 (12 inches/century). Of course, it all depends on the timeframe, you can make these numbers say anything you want them to say. I could use the same argument used to dismiss this decade’s cooling trend, to dismiss the short-term trend (not even 3.2mm per year is worth wasting your breath about).

Is it fair that I can interpret this to mean that all this unexpected ice melt isn’t causing oceans to rise all that much?

Much of the alarmism is based on fantasy, not reality. For example, pacific islands are not disappearing because of climate change/global warming/sea level rise; they are literally sinking, due to their position on the Pacific tectonic plate that is being subducted into the Solomon Trench.

Ice is melting due to warmer oceans and CO2 is not the cause, which is all that really matters. Warmer oceans are increasing precipitation; both Greenland and Antarctica are accumulating ice inland while simultaneously losing coastal ice. The end result shows the net effect, and it’s not as bad as we thought.

Benno Hansen on 30th November 2009:

Gravity measurements are fantasies?

How is your preferred explanation of warmer oceans detached from the rest of the global warming issue?

Mike on 01st December 2009:

I believe I said, that they were irrelevant. The alarmism (based on models) surrounding rising sea levels, are fantasy. This should be obvious, since everything is always “worse than we thought”; just a few months ago the “worst case scenario” from the IPCC was 0.59m. In just a few months, several “new studies” have escalated this number to 1.1 metres, 1.4 metres and even 2.0+ metres in the lead up to Copenhagen. How convenient.

From observation, it is quite clear that we won’t see more than 9 ± 3 inches this century, which is entirely non-threatening to anyone or anything. The alarmism is nothing but model-induced fantasy, on the premise that CO2 causes 7 degrees of warming this century (absolutely preposterous).

I’m not sure what you’re second comment is inferring; do you believe oceans are not melting the ice or have I read wrong?

My point was: CO2 is not the cause of the global warming, which is the only point of argument worth discussing, since evidence of warming is not in itself “proof” of anything to the cause…

Benno Hansen on 01st December 2009:

Antarctica may heat up dramatically as ozone hole repairs, warn scientists
As blanket of ozone over southern pole seals up, temperatures on continent could soar by 3C, increasing sea level rise by 1.4m

Mike on 01st December 2009:

Well, that article combines two frauds:

1) The ozone fraud.
2) The water lubricating glaciers/ice shelves fraud.

I will respond in detail tomorrow.

Mike on 04th December 2009:

At 05:35 PM 5/5/99 +0100, D Parker wrote:
>To Jim Hansen .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
> (& copies to Chris Folland, Ian Macadam, Phil Jones)
>Thanks for the mailed illustrations comparing your surface temperature data
>set with Phil Jones’s.
>We are trying to understand the cooling of your data relative to Phil Jones’s
>in the Southern Hemisphere during the 1990s (Table 1 below) in the annual
>series you sent to Ian Macadam. Plots of these were shown at the IPCC meeting
>in Asheville in March and showed the same relative cooling, but Figure 2 of
>your mailed illustrations does not show it. I note that the comparison in
>Figure 2 was made over the common area. If you use all available grids, do
>you get the relative cooling in the GISS dataset? I expect you will, because
>I have been perusing your web site and have noted that most recent years are
>cold over Antarctica in your dataset. This could be the focus of the problem,
>as your stations (with 1200km influence) will have more weight than Phil’s
>unless you use common grids.
>As an aside, recent cooling over Antarctica could be partly forced by ozone
>losses, though I note that the cooling is strongest in March-May, not in
>Sept-Nov when the ozone hole occurs.
If Antarctica cools, there will be
>consequences for Southern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation patterns,
>conceivably even contributing to the recent cooling of marine air temperature
>relative to sea surface temperature.
>To help further, can you provide annual maps, 1989 through 1998, of Jones
>(land), GISS (stations, 1200 km) and Jones minus GISS in the format of Figure
>3 of your mailed illustrations? Web or ftp access would be better than
>if possible.
>Thanks and regards
>David 5 May 1999

So much for your theory. smile

Benno Hansen on 06th December 2009:

I’m afraid I’m unfamiliar with “the ozone fraud”!

Don’t just paste long texts that are only marginally related at best for comments.

Mike on 06th December 2009:

No problem, your favourite oil shill website has got you covered!

And since you deleted it, I have no choice but to post it again!

>As an aside, recent cooling over Antarctica could be partly forced by ozone
>losses, though I note that the cooling is strongest in March-May, not in
>Sept-Nov when the ozone hole occurs.

Benno Hansen on 06th December 2009:

The big copy/paste (that I’d hidden but which someone else must have put back as “open” status!?) doesn’t address the study my article here is about at all. And you feeble minded conspiracy theorists are pasting the web all over with nonsense quotes from stolen emails these days so I’m real tired of email quotes! Well the news I got for you is those emails only expose your biases.

And last comment for Mike: It’s not “my theory”. It’s a study of satellite data. Don’t attack the messenger.

Brian on 01st January 2010:


Here’s the punch line:  Your 100s of gigatons of melting ice mean nothing.  Not even a fraction of a mm increase in sea level.  So what the heck is your point?  You think you can throw around the word gigaton and scare people?  Typical of politicians like you to not put things in perspective.  And you have no idea if these data are due to natural cycles or not.

Here’s perspective:

25-30 million cubic kilometers of ice at the south pole.

Then there are 22.8 to 27.3x10E15 metric tons of ice at the south pole. 

Your data:  ~190 gigatons +/- 92 or 77.  Is this one, two or three sigma?  I’m guessing it’s one sigma. Even three sigma data with an error as high as this is worthless.  And “a bit more precise”?????.  Please don’t tell me you’re actually a scientist and you’re spewing this tripe.  Politician, I believe.

Benno, depending on how you massage this it’s less than 4 ppm to ~12 ppm.  Are you kidding me?  You obviously didn’t think about this at all.  To call this a “nail in the coffin” of “skeptics” is laughable.

Here’s a new definition:  The “skeptics” are the real scientists.  Your so-called “scientists” are now dubbed the “eco-nazis”.  You eco-nazis have done more damage to the environmental movement than I thought possible.  I wonder if we’ll ever recover from the lies that people like you perpetuate.  Scientist will soon be synonymous with “political hack” because of crap like this.

You and your eco-friendly girlfriend should do some real good and go to your local animal shelter and volunteer, or protest the polluting of eastern Europe or Russia, or China.  Quit wasting our time, our billions of dollars and your billions of euros on this huge lie.


Benno Hansen on 01st January 2010:


I’m NOT a politician. This is NOT my data. It is merely a short summary of a recent article from a peer reviewed journal.

My comment on the relevance to “scepticism” (“denialism” really, of course scientists should never stop being sceptics but should also know when to make informed recommendations to politicians) refers to the fact that data from the South Pole has been abused by deniers.

You should work on your manners, by the way.

Brian on 02nd January 2010:


First, I apologize in forcing you to dialogue in English only.  My Danish, Faroese, and German are very bad (non-existant actually).  Your written English is excellent by-the-way.

I’m also sorry I offended you with my “manners”.  You are a self-acclaimed football fan, so I assumed you could take some of my bluntness. 

So, on to reality…......

You completely ignore my claim: That these data mean absolutely nothing.  How can you claim that this (gigatons of ice melting) is important if you don’t take ownership?  Regardless if it is your data or not, if you refer to it, you better be prepared to defend it like it was your own.  Otherwise don’t quote it.

So explain to me how a satellite measurement of statistically insignificant merit is another “nail for the coffin” of “climate change skepticism”.  The reason it hasn’t been very obvious that the southern polar ice cap is melting, is…....., IT ISN"T OBVIOUS!!!.  Especially based on these data.

So if you can’t defend this, then you ARE MOST CERTAINLY a politician, (or even worse, a disciple of the AGW religion).  Politicians regurgitate science that they don’t understand.  It appears to me that is what you are doing here.  So defend your statement, or move on…....... 

And don’t throw “peer reviewed” at me.  Gold said it best:

“The problem is this system of peer review wherein established scholars in a field pass judgment on new papers before publication,.....” “That rewards small steps but discourages bold ideas and the very sort of cross-discipline thinking that can provide the greatest breakthroughs. I don’t think there’s any question that we produced more great ideas in the first half of the 20th century than we have in the second”—when peer review has ruled.”

Denialism?  Skepticism?  Dude, take a look at Websters dictionary:


First, who christened you or any other believer in AGW as the ARBITERS OF THE TRUTH.  By emphasizing the word denialism, you imply that any science that counters yours is unsound and illogical.  This is where the label “eco-nazi” applies to your post.

Perhaps I was wrong about the word “skeptic”

“a person disposed to skepticism especially regarding religion or religious principles.” 

If I am a skeptic, it is only true in the sense I am skeptical of the AGW religion. 

I am a “golden age” enivronmentalist.  This means I believe in facts and not faith.  I believe pumping chemicals into rivers is bad.  That mining tailings in the western USA are some of the worst examples of environmental negleigence.  That the Soviet Union and China have raped the environment far worse than the US or Europe.  That dumping trash in the oceans is a capital offense.  You AGW people are doing more to damage true environmentatlism than you can ever imagine.  The backlash from all of the CO2 based lies and global warming is going set back true environmentlism by decades.

You sound like a really smart guy Benno.  Open your eyes and take a close look at the Kool-Aid you are drinking.  If you never respond to me again, at least consider the DRACONIAN forces at work here that want to imprison people for the gases that they exhale.



In return for your willingness to read this and consider it, I promise to become an FCK fan.

Benno Hansen on 02nd January 2010:

When I get terms like “eco-nazi”, “environut” and “AGW religion” thrown at me, I guess I’m pretty quick to lump my attacker into the “denialist” group.

I retain my position that this study is another solid piece of evidence that the South Pole is melting in accordance with pretty much every recognized ecological or climatological theory.

Results with intervals is what you should expect from a quality study. It is “worthless” only if you don’t understand statistics and science.

Taken together, the two findings of 190 ± 77 and 196 ± 92 Gigatonnes melt-off per year (slow motion: from 113 to 267 and from 104 to 288 by two different and independent measurements) rather solidly establishes the current melt-off at somewhere around 190 Gigatonnes per year. However, it isn’t going to change a thing for the deniers as - which is also discussed in the paper - since the South Pole is a big continent you will always be able to find areas and periods where the ice mass is increasing which will probably be continuously abused by the deniers.

If you are afraid of “draconian” government measures I suggest you better get something done about climate change now. Because as the threat level increases the measures our leaders will be forced to take will only grow in “draconianism”.

Brian on 05th January 2010:

Hey Benno,

Slow motion……., you’re a real funny guy……..

Here’s some slow motion for you………..

The essence of your claim:

That a mass loss of 190 Gt of ice, +/- 77 Gt is a direct result of the South Polar ice melting.  Your implication is the south pole is melting away as result of global warming.  That this is an irreversible trend that if left unchecked by mankind, will continue.  That if this continues, sea levels will rise, land will be lost, people displaced, weather patterns disrupted,  onset of drought, famine, and, cats and dogs living together.

100 Gt of ice is less than 0.0004% of the ice in Antarctica.  This in of itself is not interesting at all.  Perhaps you could point to trends by year,……. with correlations?  You do mention something about trends, but, I don’t see any data.  It’s worth noting that at NET loss levels such as this, it would take decades to see any perceptible change in sea level.

To complicate things further you quote figures that are nearly on the same level as the uncertainty.  In other words, your signal is almost overwhelmed by noise.  This by itself reduces your data to not worthy of the claims you make.  The “signal to noise ratio” of your data is on the order of 2/1.  Most data is ignored when the signal to noise is lower than 3/1, and quite often, an LOQ, or limit of quantification requires ratios of up to 10/1.  I’m sure that GRACE, with an error of 80-100 Gt generates very interesting data when measuring 1000 Gt or higher.  Not low 100s of Gt’s.

To further reduce the significance of these results, the error (92 and 77 Gt) I’m quite sure is equivalent to one standard deviation.  A reasonable degree of confidence would be achieved by quoting these data with two standard deviations, thus doubling your error.

So now we are looking at 190 Gt, +/- 184 or +/- 156 Gt.  Not so good eh?

It simply is what it is.  190 Gt +/- 77 Gt may be worthy of discussion, something MIGHT be happening here, but to claim that the South Pole is melting based even partially on these data doesn’t fly.  I’m sure a POLITICIAN would take this and run with it, but, do you really think any scientist is going to take this seriously?  Is your post addressed toward the lay population?  The politicians?  Is it your intent to inject fear into uneducated people’s thoughts with data of this quality?

You mention +/- 92 being more “a bit more precise” than +/- 77.  Actually this is UNCERTAINTY or ACCURACY.  Since these numbers are so bad, it doesn’t really matter.  So, for the sake of argument, let’s call it accuracy.  Swapping precision for accuracy is a mistake that politicians and laypeople make every day.  You have a masters degree in horticulture.  What’s your excuse?

Finally, mass losses are incredibly complex values to come up with.  The GRACE satellites are an elegant, beautiful pair of satellites.  Even so, in this case, the South Pole mass loss is just one variable, measured very inaccurately, in a sea of variables.  Take Glacial Isotactic Adjustment for example.  Do you realize that the contribution from GIA to the GRACE gravity data is on the order of 100 Gt +/- 67 Gt?  (2x SD is 134 Gt). 

What about the Eastern Antarctic?  You make no reference to what is going on there.  Many papers quote net mass increases, but, unfortunately, these probably have the same crappy error that your numbers have, so I won’t say they argue against your numbers.

Benno Hansen on 05th January 2010:


First of all: the measurements are of the rate of net ice melt-off. PER YEAR.

Second: Two independent measurements doubles the error!? Where did you learn statistics? If you had two scales in your bathroom, both a bit imprecise, one morning you weigh your body at 95 kg on one the next morning at 105 kg on the other knowing the results are +/- 2 kg would you consider your weigh to be somewhere between 95-4=91 to 105+4=109? Or, like me (and most others) somewhere between 95-2=93 to 105+2=107 but probably in between 95 and 105 where the areas of the distribution is greatest!? Silly this argument.

There is ice melting for “natural” reasons, ice being generated for “natural” reasons, perhaps even ice being generated for “unusual” reasons… and ice melt-off from global warming. Some areas the net effect is positive, some negative. Now independent studies confirm the over all effect on this continent is that of melt. I don’t see how this is so hard to understand.

You say I spread fear? I say the neglect of such data is irresponsible. Especially in the light of “deniers” constantly distorting data to claim the South Pole is heating.

Discuss with Nature Geoscience, NASA and the GRACE satellite, please.

While we’re at it: check out [url=”
Are]”]Are the Polar Caps Threatened?[/url] (for a cautious headline!)

“an additional 2 degrees of global warming could commit the planet to 6 to 9 meters (20 to 30 feet) of long-term sea level rise. [...] New carbon dioxide data confirm that formation of the Antarctic ice-cap some 33.5 million years ago was due to declining carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

Benno Hansen on 05th January 2010:

Hmmm… those are some bad scales.

And hopefully this is a nicer looking link: Are the Polar Caps Threatened?

Really an interesting study as it confirms the incident of the reverse of what’s happening now: Cooling from loss of CO2.

Brian on 09th January 2010:

Benno,  Benno,  Benno,

Part I.

We need to get on the same page here my friend……

I’ve read your links and have no comment,…… yet.  I will respond to your last statements, then reiterate some of mine that are not addressed.  If you want to continue this debate, then answer, otherwise, kill the thread.

The rate of ice melting.  Yes I understand this.  190 Gt PER YEAR.  I asked you to show me a TREND, not a rate.  How is the rate changing per year?  You mention that ice melting rates “have not stalled, they have increased.”  OK, so show me this trend.  Also, remember in statistics, “correlation does not imply causation”.  Here’s an example: 

If you are able to present a trend, then it would be nice to see the correlation coefficient derived from this trend, i.e. a numerical value from -1 to 1.  It would make your argument that there is a trend (increase or decrease of ice melting) much more interesting.

So you have these data????  Seriously???

Doubling error from two independent measurements.  I’m not sure what you are referring to here, as I doubled error in one case to reflect an increase in confidence, i.e. 1 standard deviation to 2 standard deviations.  I also mentioned the contribution of GIA delta mass to GRACE data, and propagated, (not doubled) the error.  Which are you referring to? 

Perhaps I am not explaining myself too well. 

When a number is presented in science, it is usually in the following format:

XX +/- YY <ZZ>,


XX is the MEASURED VALUE, say 190

YY is the error associated with the measured value, say 77

ZZ are the units of measurement, say Gt, or Gt/yr

The error, as presented in this format is also referred to as the ACCURACY.  This represents the degree of closeness of the MEASURED VALUE to the TRUE VALUE.

(Pay attention to your usage of the word precise.  You are not using it correctly.  You did it again when you referred to your bathroom scales as “both a bit imprecise”.  Using scientific lingo you should have said “both with a bit of uncertainty”.  I explain below.  I don’t know if this is a language problem, but you are using the layperson version of accurate, i.e. PRECISE, which is incorrect.  I am truly trying to help you here so that we can have a more clear debate).

The PRECISION of a measurement refers to its tendency to generate the same value over and over again.  It can be immensely inaccurate, but highly precise.  You can have a really bad number, but you can get it all the time.

Colloquial usage of the word PRECISION by the “guy on the street” has been bastardized to the point that it really means ACCURACY.  For example when the politician says, “extremely precise measurements prove that X causes Y”, they really mean “extremely accurate measurements prove that X causes Y”.  This has become so rampant in the English language, that statisticians, and scientists have dumped the expressions ACCURACY and PRECISION,  and they now use different terms, for example UNCERTAINTY and REPEATABILITY.  Scientists will continue to use these terms until the politicians mess up these also.  Then we’ll have to come up with new words.

Brian on 09th January 2010:

Part II

So back to your GRACE data.  190 +/- 77 Gt/yr.  This implies an error, or UNCERTAINTY, (not PRECISION, like you quote), of 77 Gt.

This is also understood to be 1 “standard deviation”, which implies there is a 68% chance that the real number is between 113 Gt and 267 Gt.  When I DOUBLED THE ERROR here, it is a common means of increasing the degree of confidence in your measured value.  2 standard deviations is two times 77, i.e. 154 Gt.  This states there is a 95% chance that the real number is between 36 Gt and 344 Gt. 

The randomness of the numbers that generate the error can be referred to as NOISE.  The noise levels here are the error.  You refer to the date being “cleaned” of noise, so presumably you understand this.  Well, let’s talk about noise.  Your signal from these data is almost the same as your noise.  It makes no sense to state this is proof of anything.  It is compelling, but it is not proof. 

You state “I don’t see how this is so hard to understand.”  In reference to the net mass loss due to melting.

My understanding of the error (noise) here and how it dominates the measured value is why.

At 95% confidence, GRACE data is quite poor and is only a tease of what MIGHT be happening.  It is not the smoking gun you are looking for. 

And I don’t think you are trying to spread fear.  I asked you if that was your motive.  You claim it is not, so I accept that. 

You want to wake me up, and get me on your side with AGW????.  Then first get the hockey-stick fabricating, East Anglian lying, grant/funding frenzied climatologist/political hacks out of the equation, and get some real historical temperature data that is proven, unbiased, and sound.  Then you calculate delta mass data with uncertainties of better than 20%  THEN get a correlation.  THEN rule out all other potential causes.  And along the way, don’t “lose the data”, or “blackball those that disagree with you.”, or “threaten editors of the jouirnalistic peer reviews”, or “boycott Journals that publish theories that disagree with yours.”  AND no computer models that “scientists” can tweak until they get the results they want.  THEN you have my undivided attention.  You may however hope that a colleague that disagrees with you dies.  This is not very nice but even so, it doesn’t change the scientific data. 

NEXT:  your bathroom scale question example.

If the scales are accurate to +/- 2kg. and if I want 95% confidence that whenever I step on the scale that the number is accurate to within a certain range, YES!, I would say +/- 4 kg.  If I have one weighing in at 95 kg and one weighing in at 105 kg, and I don’t know which one is correct, then the best I can do is say:

I am 95% (two standard deviations, or two SD, or two Sigma) confident that my weight is between 91 kg and 109 kg.  OR,

I am 68% (one standard deviation, etc.) confident that my weight is between 93 kg and 107 kg.

This “silly argument” as you put it, i.e. two standard deviations giving 95% confidence is a pillar of statistics and science.  I presume with your Masters degree you had a course in Statistics?  You should blow the dust off this book and re-read it.  My statistics book from 1st semester Physics is on my shelf and used to this day.

FINALLY, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY.  I would wait until my wife or girlfriend was not around, throw away the scale that weighed heavier, and tell her how great she looks.  This is a statistically proven way to get laid.  +/- 5%

Two Sigma.

Benno Hansen on 10th January 2010:

If you are into the Climategate “scandal” and want to discuss that with me try commenting on my Fun with Climategate.

Want to discuss statistical lingo? I don’t. Doesn’t really substantially matter what words I chose to describe the measurements.

As for the intervals quoted I assume they are 95% (perhaps 90% or even 99%?) confidence intervals, not 1 standard deviation.

Show you a trend? Did you consider the TITLE of the journal article: “Accelerated Antarctic ice loss…”

I suspect all you try to do is cast a bit of doubt on the research. Discuss it with NASA. I had enough for now. This study is just a drop in the ocean of studies.

Richard A. Clement on 24th January 2010:

Climate change that occurs naturally.  This change has been active since the beginning of time.  Man does not have the capability to change the climate. Does man have the intelligence necessary to attempt to change the climate without realizing the long range consequences.  Global dynamics of climate, geological changes affecting climate, and solar energy changes are not totally understood. 

An international scientific team which has been drilling beneath the bed of the Arctic Ocean says it enjoyed a sub-tropical climate 55 million years ago.

The Arctic Coring Expedition (Acex) has recovered sediment cores from nearly 400m (1,300ft) below the sea floor.

It says fossilized algae in the cores show the sea temperature was once about 20C, instead of the average now, -1.5C.

The scientists, from eight nations, recovered the cores from below the sea floor in waters 1,300m (4,260ft) deep.

Acex has been taking cores from the Lomonosov Ridge between Siberia and Greenland. The ridge, 1,500km (930 miles) long, rises to 800m (2,625ft) below sea level and is topped by 450m (1,475ft) of layered sediments.

The cores they have extracted show the Arctic Ocean was once a subtropical, shallow sea. The evidence, Acex says, is in the form of tiny algal fossils found in the cores, which were once marine plants and animals.

For politicians to assume they contain the ultimate understanding of global climate and to recklessly proceed to attempt to control the climate by controlling emissions of virtually every energy production method is financially irresponsible and should be should be considered criminal.  In the end is is the taxpayers of many nations that will pay projects that do more increase the bottom line of a few than to have a positive affect on the climate.

The IPCC reports are not about science. They are political and based on the assumption that the cause of “Global Warming” is due to man’s activitiy on the earth. This is the starting point of all IPCC reports. They are therefore, necessarily biased and unreliable from a science perspective since they start from possibly false premise and build models to fit a preconceived result. The result therefore, should surprise no one.

But is is NOT science.

Vitezslav Kremlik on 24th January 2010:

Schneider and Steig, “Ice cores record significant 1940s Antarctic warmth related to tropical climate variability. PNAS 2008.

Antarctic has cooled since 1940s. No global warming. Absolutely no warming after 1969 in the CO2 era.

Benno Hansen on 24th January 2010:


Discuss it with the satellite.

Richard A. Clement,

This may come as a surprise to you but: climatologists are already aware of the fact that climate changes in natural cycles.

Richard A. Clement on 24th January 2010:

Changes to the global climate especially the arctic regions cannot be interpreted within short periods such as since 1940.  Little is mentioned of geothermal activity below the arctic regions.  The affects of geothermal activity certainly has an affect of of the climate variability, water temperature and therefore the amount of ice that melting.  Since climatologists are aware that climate changes occur in natural cycles why are so hung up because the temperature deviated in a period of time that is insignificant in the big picture of climate change.

Brian on 07th April 2010:


I’ve been away for awhile.  Wow, ………your answers are very weak for someone that is supposed to speak clearly and talk to lay people in a way so that they can understand science.  And you’re one of the people who are supposed to be adding a sense of clarity to others on this website, with your “science” background?  I realize now I am arguing with a neophyte when it comes to science.  Stick to politics Benno and we have no problem.  If you want to talk science, like I said, go back and read all those books that you apparently never cracked open in school.

It doesn’t matter what words you use to describe the measurement?  This is the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard from someone who is speaking scientific terminology.  I throw you a bone as simple as comparing accuracy and precision?  C’mon Benno, admit it.  I made you a smarter guy.  Now you know how to talk statistics a little better than you did before don’t you?  AND thanks Benno for admitting how right I was.  When I see an answer as lame as this, I guess it shows what a pile of &^%$ you really did put yourself in, doesn’t it?

And NO, you did not show me a trend, and, there is no trend in the data that this article presents.  So what?  The title says “Accelerate Ice Loss”  I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the title of an article that some AGW freak uses as a scare tactic.  You can’t show the trend because there is no trend.  If it’s not a trend, your nifty little journal article doesn’t hold.

However, when did the truth ever stop you AGW freaks from spreading more lies.

Here’s the kind of science I expect from your types:

Benno Hansen on 07th April 2010:

Brian Keith,

Wow that was a long personal attack. I’d like to answer you but I look closer and find no substance whatsoever!?

I hope you realize a comment such as yours should be deleted asap on any decent forum. I’ll leave it here to testify your approach to discussing simple facts.

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