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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eli Rabett on the new paper by O'Donnell, Lewis, McIntyre and Condon -- Melting Hopes

Melting hopes

by Eli Rabett, Rabett Run, December 9, 2010
A new paper by O’Donnell, Lewis, McIntyre and Condon on temperature trends in Antarctica, is the hit of the blogosphere, and it is scaring the carrots out of Eli. To understand why, compare the results of O'Donnell et al. with the earlier ones of Steig et al. The O'Donnell work shows cooling in interior East/Central Antarctica, but much higher warming in West Antartica, especially along the coast.

This means that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is subject to even more stress than previously thought, and is much more in danger of collapse than previously thought, which already was causing premature hare whitening.

If that ain't bad enough, O'Donnell et al.'s results say that the coast of East Antarctica is warming even faster than Steig et al. deduced, so that situation is also worse.

It doesn't much matter if ice warms, but stays frozen, but it matters a hell of a lot if it warms and melts, or even warms and weakens. Melting and weakening in Antarctica occurs mostly at the margins and not in the interior, and what interior melting occurs, refreezes before it can contribute to sea level rise, while melting and weakening on the edge of the continent, contributes directly and immediately to sea level rise.

There also appears to be some differences between the maps at Real Climate and Climate Audit, both for O'Donnell et al. and Steig et al., but the bottom line is the same no matter which versions you use.
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