Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fire And Ice; Volcanoes, Not CO2, Melt West Antarctic

Fire And Ice; Volcanoes, Not CO2, Melt West Antarctic

Junk Science: Researchers have discovered a chain of smoldering active volcanoes under the West Antarctic ice sheet — which happens to be the ice sheet that climate hysterics say is proof of man-caused global warming.
The 2004 science fiction movie "The Day After Tomorrow" — and the operative word here is "fiction" — opened with a portion of the West Antarctic ice sheet shearing off as a prelude to planetary doom.
But if the researchers depicted in the film had looked deep into the widening crevice, they might have noticed a string of active volcanoes lurking under nearly a mile of Antarctic ice.
Real-life researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have in fact discovered a chain of active volcanoes under the West Antarctic ice sheet. They weren't looking for them. They just detected unexplained seismic activity while doing measurements.
As part of an effort to analyze the ice sheet to help reconstruct Antarctica's climate history, the researchers set up two crossing lines of seismographs across Marie Byrd Land in West Antarctica. The instruments recorded at least two significant seismic events under the ice sheet.
"I started seeing events that kept occurring at the same location, which was odd. Then I realized they were close to some mountains, but not right on top of them," explained doctoral student Amanda Lough, lead author of a paper appearing in the November issues of the journal Nature Geoscience.
"My first thought was, 'OK, maybe it's just coincidence,'" Lough said.
"But then I looked more closely and realized that the mountains were actually volcanoes and there was an age progression to the range. The volcanoes closest to the seismic events were the youngest ones."
The researchers then used airborne ice-penetrating radar to create topographic maps of the bedrock and identified a layer of ash in the ice overlying the location of the seismic activity — evidence of a full-blown eruption some 8,000 years ago. And they made a surprising discovery near Mount Sidley — an active volcano smoldering under 1.2 kilometers of ice.
The discovery finally confirms long-held suspicions of volcanic activity beneath the vast West Antarctic ice sheet. Several volcanoes, such as Mount Erebus, stick out along the Antarctic coast and its offshore islands.
But this is the first time anyone has caught magma in action far from the coast. Erebus had been thought to be the continent's only active volcano.
"Eruptions at this site are unlikely to penetrate the 1.2-2-kilometer-thick overlying ice, but would generate large volumes of melt water that could significantly affect ice stream flow," said the study.
Larsen ice shelves A and B, by the way, sit astride a chain of volcanic vent islands known as the Seal Nunataks, which may figure into melting and breakups
If West Antarctic ice melt were caused by man-induced climate change, why is the rest of the continent gaining ice? In fact, while the alarmists obsess about ice sheets breaking off, Antarctic sea ice has grown to a record-large extent for a second straight year.
In 2013, the ice extent reached 19.51 million square kilometers, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center website. That number topped the record-high level set in 2012 of 19.48 million square kilometers.
This comes on the heels of a review of the ICESat satellite data from 1992 to 2008, which showed a net gain in ice mass in Antarctica.
Volcanic activity under the West Antarctic ice sheet goes a long way toward explaining how the Antarctic as a whole has been gaining ice while iceberg "calving" has been occurring in the West Antarctic.
NASA has been blaming West Antarctic ice loss on warming ocean currents, but volcanoes under the ice may in fact be the culprit, not the carbon dioxide every human being exhales.


  1. Although volcanic eruptions are preceded by seismic swarms, there is no certainty that seismic swarms will lead to eruptions. Thus, any assumptions about melting of subglacial ice are premature. Just prior to eruption, as lava approaches the surface, volcanoes generate continuous seismic activity known as harmonic motion. There is no mention of any such activity in this paper, so I assume all that is happening is very deep-seated seismic activity. This is NOT evidence of an impending eruption. Let’s not waste any time worrying about melting glacial ice until we see harmonic tremor–until then, it’s a nonevent

    1. Thank you Don Easterbrook

      I agree the claims in this newspaper article are speculative, but I think the point that man-made CO2 is unlikely to be the cause of ice loss limited to the edge of W Antarctica is correct for many other reasons.

    2. Don,

      Is it possible that there is a low level of magma flow coming from these volcanoes under ice sheets that can't be detected, i.e. activity less than a large eruption?

  2. This article's last comment about carbon dioxide being exhaled every day by humans reveals the ignorance of the author about the carbon cycle and the connection to global warming. Of course humans exhale CO2 every day but this is balanced by intake of carbon from food. Any carbon that makes its way from one form to the next but eventually ends up in the same place is part of the carbon cycle and will never contribute to an imbalance in any of the forms of carbon. Fossil fuels have been locked away deep in the earth and therefore burning them is causing an imbalance in the form of rising CO2 in the atmosphere. Its this imbalance that will eventually lead to catastrophic rising global temperatures.

    1. Oh please, watch Dr. Salby's lecture on the carbon cycle and CAGW to understand why you are wrong on several levels. The lecture is over in the right column ---->