For some time now, global-warming skeptics have found Antarctica to be a source of comfort and joy.
“Report: Antarctic Ice Growing, Not Shrinking” was the headline on a FoxNews.com story back in April. And when syndicated columnist George Will was writing a series of whoppers about global warming last winter and spring, he grounded his faulty data in part on the notion that ice loss in the Arctic was being offset by gains in the Antarctic — something he did not explain, and which experts say is bad science.
Well, it was fun while it lasted. According to a study published late last month in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience, the East Antarctic ice sheet has been shrinking since 2006. The finding is based on new data gathered by a NASA satellite that measured changes in the Antarctic gravity.
Dr. Joe Romm of Climate Progress calls it a “satellite data stunner.”
According to news reports by the BBC and in Time magazine, scientists are treating the new data with caution, and are uncertain about what it means. For one thing, Antarctica is so cold that, under some models, warming could actually result in more snow and ice. For another, it’s not clear whether the shrinkage in East Antarctica can be attributed to global warming.
Nevertheless, if the data are borne out, the implications are clear enough: current projections that sea levels worldwide will rise three feet by 2100 are based on the belief that the East Antarctica ice sheet would not experience any melting. Looks like that number will have to be revised upwards.
And if the data are not necessarily evidence of global warming, they nevertheless show that Antarctica can no longer be cited as evidence of its lack, either.