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FREAKOUT: Study Claims Antarctic Ice Loss Tripled, from near zero to an extremely tiny number! (Nobody mention those volcanoes)

By Jo Nova

Quick — tax the magma

It’s another round of Antarctic Doom about next to nothing. In April Antarctica’s ice was melting five times faster than usual. Now it’s losing ice three times faster in the last five years than the 15 before that! What you won’t hear is how the Antarctic ice cap has 29 million cubic kilometers of ice and has been there for 30 million, mostly warmer, years. You also won’t hear how Antarctica was warmer in Roman Times, or that the  Antarctic Peninsula has cooled by almost 1 degree.

You also won’t hear a word about any volcanoes

The new paper has zero mentions of the word. But other scientists have published plenty of papers describing how the West Antarctic zone is being warmed from below by 1200 degrees of magma. According to scientist Dustin Schroeder and co,  it is as if the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctic is sitting on a “stovetop burner”.[1]  His words. Thwaites Glacier,, smack in the middle of the warming is being melted from below by geothermal heat. Then there is the large blob of superheated rock 60 miles below West Antarctica. The researchers use the phrase “like a blow-torch”….  Capping it off, only last year 91 new volcanoes were discovered 2km underneath the West Antarctic Rift. That’s new, as in, we didn’t know they were there.

Follow the reasoning, either a trace gas 10 kilometers up is causing some spots of Antarctica to warm and other parts to cool, or hot magma at 1,200C is. What’s more likely?

Antarctic ice, warming, melting, map, graphic, location of volcanoes, geothermal heat.

Antarctic ice is warming in West Antarctica and the Peninsula, but not over most of East Antarctica.


From the new paper we get the same old pattern. The biggest part of Antarctica is East Antarctica and it’s not melting — even in this alarming new paper.

I thought there was CO2 there as well?

Antarctic Melting, 2018. Graph

The battle of Big Meaningless Numbers

From the abstract we find tiny fractions are written up as big numbers of small units with no real context. Then they extrapolate a 6 year trend on an ice mass that’s been around for millions of years.  Adding up the losses, in this “worst of the worst” scenarios Antarctica might be losing 187 billion tonnes of ice per year (give or take a lot). That’s 187 cubic kilometers of ice, which sounds like a lot until we look at the size of the Antarctic Ice Sheet (29 million kilometers cubed). At this new “accelerated” rate the total loss is one 155,00oth of the total mass. Expressed another way, it’s 0.0006%. At this rate Antarctica will be entirely melted 155,000 years from now.

This agrees quite well with the April round of Antarctic Doom which implied it would melt in 118,000 years. Lucky us, we have 30,000 years to spare now.

The first line in the paper’s introduction:

“The ice sheets of Antarctica hold enough water to raise global sea level by 58m.”

Handy to know what people in 155,000 A.D. will be facing. Now that’s forward planning….

Other posts on this topic:


The Antarctic Ice Sheet is an important indicator of climate change and driver of sea-level rise. Here we combine satellite observations of its changing volume, flow and gravitational attraction with modelling of its surface mass balance to show that it lost 2,720 ± 1,390 billion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, which corresponds to an increase in mean sea level of 7.6 ± 3.9 millimetres (errors are one standard deviation). Over this period, ocean-driven melting has caused rates of ice loss from West Antarctica to increase from 53 ± 29 billion to 159 ± 26 billion tonnes per year; ice-shelf collapse has increased the rate of ice loss from the Antarctic Peninsula from 7 ± 13 billion to 33 ± 16 billion tonnes per year. We find large variations in and among model estimates of surface mass balance and glacial isostatic adjustment for East Antarctica, with its average rate of mass gain over the period 1992–2017 (5 ± 46 billion tonnes per year) being the least certain.

h/t Marc Morano, Cliff O, Don A, Greg in NZ, Pat,


The IMBIE Team (2018) Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017, Naturevolume 558, pages219–222 (2018)

Dustin M. Schroeder, Donald D. Blankenship, Duncan A. Young, and Enrica Quartini. Evidence for elevated and spatially variable geothermal flux beneath the West Antarctic Ice SheetPNAS, June 9, 2014 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1405184111 [Abstract]

Lough et al.  (2013) Seismic detection of an active subglacial magmatic complex in Marie Byrd Land, Antarctica, Nature,  PDF

Lloyd et al (2015) A seismic transect across West Antarctica: Evidence for mantle thermal anomalies beneath the Bentley Subglacial Trench and the Marie Byrd Land DomeJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/2015JB012455

Maximillian van Wyk de Vries, Robert G. Bingham and Andrew S. Hein (2017) A new volcanic province: an inventory of subglacial volcanoes in West Antarctica Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 461, 29 May 2017.