Friday, February 16, 2007

New Game: Find The Asinine Assumption

From THE USA Today:

There are 14 regions of previously undetected lakes hidden beneath parts of the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet that are continuously dumping their contents into the surrounding sea, NASA scientists reported Thursday.

The researchers acknowledge that they don't know what role these lakes play in draining ice away from the sheet, but its collapse is one of the most extreme fears in global warming scenarios. Antarctica holds about 90% of the world's ice and 70% of its reservoir of fresh water, NASA says.

You know what...just to make it easy for new players, I'll highlight an important part of that:

The researchers acknowledge that they don't know what role these lakes play in draining ice away from the sheet

But the articles goes on to say:

Alley cautions that scientists still haven't figured out how the lakes, along with smaller subglacial lakes in Eastern Antarctica, control how ice sheets drain into the oceans, or their potential for collapse.

"We can't predict what these ice streams are going to do, based on these measurements," Bindschadler says.

Global warming melts the ice sheets, he says. "That's the easy part." However, "the hard part is the details of how it all works."
[emphasis added]

So see, Global Warming is causing these rivers and lakes, which we didn't know existed because they were under 2/5 of a mile of ice, to dump into the sea and cause ocean levels to rise. (We are assuming, of course, that they haven't been doing exactly this for the last few hundred thousand years. Let's assume it never happened before. Sound good to you?) Oh and all this is happening at the same time the Antarctic has been cooling for at least the last 20 years or so.

So let me get this straight. You just discover something new, something unstudied, and you are going to immediately make sweeping generalizations about how it functions? Yeah...that's scientific.

Oh and I love this particular asinine assumption:

Global warming melts the ice sheets, he says. "That's the easy part."

So that is the "easy part", right. Well let us look at what the new IPCC report has to say on such matters:

Table SPM-1. Observed rate of sea level rise and estimated contributions from different sources.

Rate of sea level rise (mm per year)


Antarctic ice sheet 0.14 ± 0.41

So, the "easy" part tells you the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet has added 0.14mm per year plus or minus 0.41mm.

In case you don't see it, this is the scientific way of saying "We haven't a clue about how much Antarctic melting is happening. Hell, we don't even know if it is happening."

Think about it folks. Let's say you asked me how tall my brother was and I said, "6 feet, give or take 17 1/2 feet." I think it would be safe to deduce that I had no idea how tall my brother was.

So the IPCC is saying they guess that the Antarctic sheet ice has added 6mm to sea levels from 1961-2003, but they wouldn't be surprised to discover it had in fact lowered sea levels 11mm or, at the other extreme, raised it 23mm.

And remember, this is the stuff scientists are having an easy time with. Just imagine how they are faring with the difficult questions!


Tully said...

Don't you love it when the error factors are larger than the observations? Hey, there's some certainty for you!

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

I know. I also love that for the globe as a whole sea level rise is listed as 0.7mm a year +/- 0.7mm.

It is easy to see why Al Gore is hysterical.

"What if people notice I'm a fraud!"