Greenland Ice Sheet Doomed… Again

Guest “geological perspective” by David Middleton

Unprecedented ice loss is predicted for Greenland Ice Sheet
30 Sep 2020

Over the next eighty years global warming is set to melt enough ice from the Greenland Ice Sheet to reverse 4000 years of cumulative ice growth – with rates of ice-loss more than quadruple even the fastest melt rates during the past 12,000 years. These stark conclusions come from new simulations which, for the first time, put current and projected future rates of ice-loss into context; comparing them directly with historical rates of ice-loss. These latest results are consistent with previous research that shows that if we continue our current high trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions we can expect Greenland to become ice-free in as little as 1000 years.


But as their simulation ventured into the future they discovered that the rate of ice-loss is likely to dwarf anything seen in the past. Under a high-emissions “business as usual” scenario Briner and his colleagues show that ice loss could reach an eye-watering 35,900 billion tonnes per century by 2100, whilst under a low-emissions scenario it is likely to rise to around 8800 billion tonnes per century. “It was a shocking to me to see that even with low emissions the pace of ice loss is going to be faster than it was during the warmest period in the past,” says Briner, whose findings are published in Nature.


Physics World

A read-only copy of the paper is available for viewing… Nature.

Basically, RCP8.5 melts all of Greenland’s ice within 1,000 years.

Is anyone else picking up a “been there, done that” vibe?


This section adapted from The Insignificance of Greenland’s Ice Mass Loss in Five Easy Charts…

I downloaded the Kobashi et al., 2017 climate reconstruction from NOAA and plotted it to evaluate the context of recent climate change in central Greenland. 

Figure 1. GISP2 temperature reconstruction since Younger Dryas glacial stadial.
Figure 2. GISP2 temperature reconstruction since 4000 BC. Climate and historical periods from Grosjean et al., 2007.
Figure 3. GISP2 temperature reconstruction since 1900 AD. RMS TitanicGlacier GirlThe Ice Age Cometh? and Summit Station temperatures included for “scale”… 

The inescapable conclusion is that if there ever was a climate “crisis,” it was during the Little Ice Age… It was FRACKING cold back then!

How does the recent melting compare to the rest of the Holocene? Short answer: “Same as it ever was”.  Vinther et al., 2009 reconstructed the elevations of four ice core sites over the Holocene.  There has been very little change in elevation of the two interior ice core sites (NGRIP and GRIP), while the two outboard sites (Camp Century and DYE3) have lost 546 and 342 m of ice respectively.

Figure 4. Most of the melting since the beginning of the Holocene has occurred on the outboard, lower elevation portions of the GrIS – Same as it ever was. X-axis is in calendar years AD(BC). Elevation reconstruction data from Vinther et al., 2009. Map from Weißbach et al., 2015.

Vinther’s elevation reconstruction runs from 11,700 to 40 years before the year 2000. So the most recent year is 1960.

Based on the mass balance estimates from Mouginot, there was very little net change from 1960 to 1995, the starting year for Polar Portal’s elevation change maps. I enlarged the elevation change maps and posted the ice core locations on them.

Figure 5. Greenland elevation changes 1995-1999 and 2001-2005 (Polar Portal).
Figure 6. Greenland elevation changes 2007-2011 and 2013-2017 (Polar Portal).

The scale is in meters per year. Note that there has been very little change in ice elevation at these locations. Using my Mark I eyeball, I estimated the annual changes in elevation from 1995-2017.

Using the 2009 elevations provided by Vinther, I calculated the elevations of the four locations from 11,700 years ago up to 2017.

Figure 7. Elevation of four ice core locations 11,700 years ago to 2017.
Figure 8. Elevation of four ice core locations 1900 to 2017.

“Same as it ever was…”

But, but, the Greenland ice sheet is still shrinking! When it all melts, sea level will rise by 7 meters!!!

We petroleum geologists are obsessed with calculating volumes of oil and gas reservoirs and we spend a lot of time making things called “isopach maps” and running “volumetrics“. Fortunately for me, Eric Gaba – Wikimedia Commons user: Sting made an isopach map of the Greenland ice sheet.

Figure 9. Isopach map of Greenland Ice Sheet (Eric Gaba – Wikimedia Commons user: Sting) (left) and elevation change map (Polar Portal) (right).

Almost all of the recent thinning is in the outboard areas of the ice sheet (“Same as it ever was”). I downloaded a high-resolution copy of the isopach map and digitized the contours using NeuraMap volumetric analysis software. The area and volume of the isopach map were inline with estimates in USGS Professional Paper 1386–A, Table 2, page A77.

  • Area: 1,736,095 km2
  • Volume: 2,600,000 km3

I used the 10 m contour as the 0 contour. The area of the 0 m contour was very close to the USGS area.

Contours (m) km2 Acres
                3,200 888 219,434
                3,000 49,381 12,202,209
                3,000 896.1 221,429
                2,500 364,162 89,986,345
                2,000 723,269 178,723,576
                2,000 5,395 1,333,230
                2,000 9,186 2,269,815
                1,500 1,065,247 263,228,385
                1,000 1,347,485 332,970,919
                       –   1,737,393 429,319,196

The volume was a little higher than the USGS estimate; but well within the range of other recent estimates. The USGS cites a 1954 reference for this number and also cites Bamber et al., 2011, which puts the volume at 2,900,000 km3.  Bamber has subsequently upped his estimate to 2,960,000 km3.

Volumes km3
Method In situ
Trapezoid 2,980,626
Pyramid 2,953,938
TrapPyra 2,961,940
Simpson 2,844,332
3/8Rule 2,725,668
VerticalSlice 2,979,256
Step 2,456,431
Average 2,843,170

As can be seen, estimates for the volume of the Greenland ice sheet vary widely and the methods of volumetric calculation yield a pretty wide range of results… Yet modern climate “scientists” can detect 0.015% annual changes in its mass… Go figure!

This is what happens if I drop the 1,000 m contour by 10 m:

Volumes km3
Method Lose 10 m
Trapezoid 2,977,601 99.90%
Pyramid 2,950,926 99.90%
TrapPyra 2,958,915 99.90%
Simpson 2,844,332 100.00%
3/8Rule 2,725,668 100.00%
VerticalSlice 2,976,230 99.90%
Step 2,453,891 99.90%
Average 2,841,080 99.93%

99.93% of the Greenland ice sheet doesn’t melt and/or calve into the ocean. The USGS paper states that if the entire ice sheet were to melt, sea level would rise by 6.5 meters. In the highly unlikely scenario above, sea level would rise by a whopping 4.8 mm.

  • 6.5 m * 0.07% = 0.00478 m

What happens if I drop the 1,000 m contour by 100 m?

Volumes km3
Method Lose 100 m
Trapezoid 2,947,019 98.87%
Pyramid 2,920,467 98.87%
TrapPyra 2,928,333 98.87%
Simpson 2,844,332 100.00%
3/8Rule 2,725,668 100.00%
VerticalSlice 2,945,636 98.87%
Step 2,428,207 98.85%
Average 2,819,952 99.18%

That’s just over 2 inches of sea level rise.

RCP8.5: Junk Science on steroids

If you review their paper in Nature, you’ll see that the nightmare scenarios are all ginned up with the RCP8.5 model scenario, the one where Doctor Evil melts the icecaps with a space “laser.”

This section adapted from: U.S. Climate Resilience Tool Kit: Greenland Stays Frozen in 2100… Even Under RCP8.5

I stumbled across something very useful yesterday on Climate-Dot-Gov’s U.S. Climate Resilience Tool Kit page.

Figure 10. CMIP5 Global Climate Change Viewer

The widget generates CMIP5 or PMIP3 model outputs for specific countries and a temperature change map of the world.  You can also spit out plots of each model.  And these outputs display the actual temperature ranges rather than anomalies.

Since Greenland is such a great climatic playground, I started playing around with it.

Greenland Stays Frozen in an RCP8.5 Bad Science Fiction Nightmare

The first thing I did was to hit Greenland with RCP8.5.

Figure 11. Greenland RCP8.5 1980-2004 vs 2071-2095 –> 5.1 °C

While the histogram indicates a 5.1 °C rise in the average annual surface temperature.  It’s thought that the Sangamonian (Eeemian) interglacial was at least 5 °C warmer than today and Greenland retained much of its ice.  However, most of that 5.1 °C rise appears to be in winter and the average July temperature is projected to still be below freezing, only 2-3 °C warmer than the 1980-2004 mean.

Andy May’s brilliant analysis of NCA4 featured this image:

Figure 12. “A comparison of 32 climate models and observations. The observations are from weather balloon and satellite data. The two observational methods are independent of one another and support each other. The plot is after Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Christy 2016).”

Andy noted the following:

INM-CN4 is labeled and it, alone, is tracking the observations with enough accuracy, yet it does not predict dangerous temperatures in the future or any significant human influence on climate.

This drew some standard ad hominem and/or unsupported dismissals of Dr. Christy’s work and derision of INM-CM4.  So I downloaded UAH 6.0 and HadCRUT4 and plotted 5-yr running means at the same scale as Dr. Christy’s 2016 plot.

Figure 13. HadCRUT4 and UAH 6.0 plotted on Christy 2016.

UAH 6.0 generally plots within 0.1 °C of the average of 3 satellite datasets, closest to INM-CM4.  HadCRUT4 plots well-below the model-mean closest to the only model that runs hotter than INM-CM4.  Note that there’s not a lot of difference between HadCRUT4 and UAH 6.0.  (0.1-0.2 °C is not a lot of difference).

Here are the RCP8.5 and RCP 4.5 outputs for INM-CM4 in Greenland:

Figure 14. Greenland INM-CM4 model, RCP8.5. Greenland still frozen in 2100 AD, barely warmer than the coldest part of the Holocene, the Little Ice Age.
Figure 15. Greenland INM-CM4 model, RCP4.5. Greenland still frozen in 2100 AD, barely warmer than the coldest part of the Holocene, the Little Ice Age.

Both models indicate that Greenland won’t be significantly warmer in 2100 than it was in 1850.  Almost all of the warming comes from an increase in the minimum temperatures.

1850 was very cold by Holocene standards.

Figure 16. Alley’s reconstruction ends in about 1850… only very slightly warmer than the coldest Holocene temperatures.

Where is Inigo Montoya when you need him?

Tipping Points: “You keep using that [phrase], I do not think it means what you think it means”

The Physics World article closes with this…

Previous research has suggested that we have already passed the point of no return for the Greenland Ice Sheet, with no hope of preventing a complete meltdown, but Briner and his colleagues are not convinced that this tipping point has passed. “It is clear that we are now committed to a lot of ice loss through this century, but our simulation shows that if we follow a low-emissions pathway the rate of ice-loss may slow as we approach 2100. It is possible to leave future generations with a healthy Greenland Ice Sheet,” he says. Lenton concurs and thinks there is still time to act. “Even if tipping points have been passed, because the ice sheet dynamics are relatively slow, it is possible to ‘overshoot’ an ice sheet tipping point temporarily and still recover the situation. That of course requires bringing greenhouse gas levels down, which is going to require deliberate greenhouse gas removal on top of stopping greenhouse gas emissions.”

Physics World

There you have it… The bear will always remain just out of sight in the woods.

Added Bonus

A couple of weeks ago a massive chunk of ice – equivalent in size to the Caribbean island of Montserrat – broke away from north-east Greenland.

Physics World

Montserrat ~ 2 Mahattans

Adapted from: 2012: The Year Greenland Melted (AKA Alarmists Gone Wild) and Manhattan-sized Icebergs!

Manhattan-sized Icebergs are insignificant relative to Greenland-sized ice sheets.

  • Manhattan: 34 square miles.
  • Greenland ice sheet: 660,235 square miles.

Manhattan = 0.005% of Greenland ice sheet. 99.995% of the Greenland ice sheet did not participate in this event.

If one Manhattan-sized chunk of ice calved into the ocean every year and there was no snow accumulation in Greenland for 1,000 years, Greenland would lose 5% of its ice sheet. A little perspective on Manhattan-sized chunks of ice…

Figure 17. Manhattan-sized chunks of ice are insignificant compared to Petermann Glacier, much less the Greenland ice sheet.
(Wikipedia and Google Earth)

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via Watts Up With That?

October 2, 2020 at 04:20AM

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