The BBC recently ran a story claiming that the Antarctic ocean currents were heading for collapse, and to drive home the scare there was even a reference to the 2004 climate disaster film, The Day After Tomorrow. Rapidly melting Antarctic ice was reported to be causing a dramatic slowdown in deep ocean currents, “and could have a disastrous effect on the climate”. Like most of these fanciful scare stories, “could” is doing a lot of the heavy lifting work. But alas, missing from this Net Zero-promoting, model-inventing Armageddon tall tale was a note that the Antarctica ice cap appears to be in balance, and is not actually melting.
According to a paper written by NASA satellite ice-mapping scientists in 2021, Antarctica is “close to balance” in the period 2012-16 at -12 +/- 64 Gt a-1. Gt are gigatonnes and the formula is a scientific way of saying that as near as damn it, well within a margin of error, the Antarctica ice sheet loss is, more or less, zero. Back to 1992, the scientists found large total gains for the sheet.
According to the story in the BBC, reported faithfully in numerous media, as fresh water from the ice cap melts, sea water becomes less salty and dense and a downwards movement of water towards the sea bottom is interrupted. This in turn can affect world oceanic currents. The activist science blog the Conversation reported that “torrents of Antarctic meltwater are slowing the currents that drive our vital ocean ‘overturning’ – and threaten its collapse”. The BBC noted that a similar collapse in the North Atlantic was depicted in The Day After Tomorrow.
As regular readers will recall, the Daily Sceptic has observed that Antarctica is a difficult neighbourhood for activists to get a good scare story going. Over the last seven decades, there has been little or no warming over large parts of the continent. According to a recent paper, (Singh and Polvani), the Antarctica sea ice has “modestly expanded”, and warming has been “nearly non-existent” over much of the ice sheet. According to NASA figures, the ice loss is 0.0005% per year.
The latest scare arises from a paper published in Nature. It is the product of climate models – the BBC noting that the scientists spent 35 million computer hours over two years collecting their results. However, this story is also of considerable interest since it shows that the BBC and most mainstream media are seemingly incapable of questioning any statement that promotes human-caused climate change and the proposed command-and-control Net Zero political solution. This endemic lack of curiosity means that vast areas of science, including atmospheric physics and chemistry, together with weather, geology and geography, are simply off limits in case any doubt should be cast on the suggestion that humans control the CO2 climate thermostat.
The study lead author, Professor Matthew England from Sydney’s University of New South Wales, is able to state, without any inquiring question or contradiction, that “our modelling shows that if global carbon emissions continue at the current rate, then the Antarctica overturning will slow by more than 40% in the next 30 years”. The BBC repeats emissions continuing at the current rate, but England’s paper states that his model has been loaded with a “high emissions” scenario. The paper is behind a paywall, but the abstract in which this admission occurs is freely available.
These “high emission” scenarios are almost certainly RCP8.5 and SSP5-8.5 that forecast global rises in temperatures of 4-5°C within less than 80 years. As Dr. Judith Curry has recently pointed out, these have been dropped in many science circles on the grounds they are recognised as implausible. Global warming of barely 0.1°C over the last 20 years is almost certainly a factor in this reassessment. Nevertheless, Curry notes that many of the extreme events based on the scenarios are still quoted in IPCC documents. “Rejecting these extreme scenarios has rendered obsolete much of the climate literature and assessments of the last decade,” she states.
Not at the BBC, of course. Settled science – the Science – cannot move on because it suffers from the anti-science proposition that it is somehow settled. Model results suggest deep water circulation in the Antarctic could slow at twice the rate of decline in the North Atlantic, reports the BBC. “It’s stunning to see that happen so quickly,” said climatologist Alan Mix from Oregon State University, a co-author of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment. “It appears to be kicking into gear right now. That’s headline news,” he told Reuters. No, Dr. Mix, it’s a model based on assumptions that are regularly contradicted by the data. Some climatologists it appears have trouble distinguishing fact from their own fevered predictions.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.