What Would Happen…?

By David Middleton – Re-Blogged From WUWT

What would happen if science went stupid? “Science” articles like this would become the norm (H/T ozspeaksup):

Here’s What Would Happen if All The Ice on Earth Melted Overnight
12 OCT 2019

Ninety-nine per cent of all freshwater ice on Earth is sitting on top of Greenland and Antarctica, and each year, a little more of it melts into the ocean.

Normally, it would take hundreds to thousands of years for it all to melt away. But what if something happened that caused a massive global melt overnight?

As we slept, sea levels would rise by a whopping 66 meters. Coastal cities like…


And you’re right, this is probably never going to happen. After all, there’s enough ice right now to cover the entire continent of North America in a sheet a mile thick.

So the next time you hear about record-breaking heat or ultra-powerful hurricanes, at least you know that it could be worse. But scientists estimate that if we don’t take action and global temperatures increase by just 1 degree Celsius, the effects of climate change we already see today will be irreversible.

So yes, it could be worse, and it will be if we’re not careful.

Science Alert

There is so much stupid in this article, that I had to limit my quotation to the least stupid bits to avoid quoting the entire piece of horst schist. For starters, the potential sea level rise is more like 80 meters.

Figure 1. Table 3 from USGS Professional Paper 1386-A-2.. 65 out of 80 potential meters of ice-related potential sea-level rise resides in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. 

Basically, their contention is 66 meters of sea level rise would would cause seawater to infiltrate all of our groundwater reservoirs. This, coupled with the melting of the ice, which holds 99% of Earth’s freshwater, would deprive us of drinking water. While, at the same time, the influx of freshwater into the North Atlantic would shut down the Gulf Stream, triggering a The Day After Tomorrow-style mini ice age, while simultaneously melting all of the permafrost on Earth, causing mercury poisoning, doubling Earth’s greenhouse gases, leading to 3.5 °C of warming relative to current conditions…

That might not sound like much, but say goodbye to that mini European ice age, and even rivers and lakes around the world. They’d evaporate from the higher temperatures and cause mass droughts and desert-like climates. And all that extra water vapour in the atmosphere would fuel more frequent and stronger storms, floods, and hurricanes.

So all of that newly established coastline on the eastern US would be one of the last places you’d want to live. Instead, there would be mass migrations to Canada, Alaska, the Arctic, and even what’s left of the Antarctic.

Science Alert

This bit was followed up by, “And you’re right, this is probably never going to happen”… Probably? Try not even close to physically possible.

The Earth’s average surface temperature would have to rise by about 10 °C, in order to melt most of the perennial ice on Earth. It would have to rise by at least 4-5 °C just to melt most of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The bulk of Antarctic ice, the East Antarctic Ice sheet has been stable since at least the Mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO), possibly since the Early Oligocene (34 Ma).

Figure 2. High Latitude SST (°C) From Benthic Foram δ18O, temperature scale is for ice-free conditions (Zachos, et al., 2001) (Older toward right).

If we compare the Zachos reconstruction, using a temperature conversion suitable for the icier Quaternary Period, to the modern instrumental record, we can see that all of the warming of the past 150 years is barely noticeable.

Figure 3. High Latitude SST (°C) From Benthic Foram δ18O (Zachos, et al., 2001) and HadSST3 (Hadley Centre / UEA CRU via http://www.woodfortrees.org) plotted at same scale, tied at 1950 AD (older is toward the left).

Another 0.5 to 1.0 ºC between now and the end of the century doesn’t even put us into Eemian climate territory, much less the Miocene or even the Pliocene. We will still be in the Quaternary Period noise level. Bear in mind that the instrumental temperature data are of much higher resolution than the δ18O derived temperatures. As such, the δ18O data reflect the bare minimum of dynamic amplitude range. Actual paleo temperatures would have reflected a far greater range of variability (higher highs and lower lows).

Defusing the permafrost methane time bomb.

Regarding the massive release of methane from permafrost, you literally “can’t get there from here.

News in Brief: Warming may not release Arctic carbon
Element could stay locked in soil, 20-year study suggests
By Erin Wayman
May 15, 2013

Researchers used greenhouses to artificially warm tundra (shown, in autumn) for 20 years. They found no net change in the amount of carbon stored in the soil.

The Arctic’s stockpile of carbon may be more secure than scientists thought. In a 20-year experiment that warmed patches of chilly ground, tundra soil kept its stored carbon, researchers report.


Science News

In the Alaska experiment, they warmed the permafrost by 2 °C over a 20-yr period (10 times the actual rate of warming since the 1800’s) and there wasn’t the slightest hint of an accelerated methane release.

Vaks et al., 2013 found no evidence of widespread permafrost thawing above 60°N since MIS-11, not even during MIS-5…

The absence of any observed speleothem growth since MIS 11 in the northerly Lenskaya Ledyanaya cave (despite dating outer edges of 7 speleothems), suggests the permanent presence of permafrost at this latitude since the end of MIS-11. Speleothem growth in this cave occurred in early MIS-11, ruling out the possibility that the unusual length of MIS-11 caused the permafrost thawing.


The degradation of permafrost at 60°N during MIS-11 allows an assessment of the warming required globally to cause such extensive change in the permafrost boundary.


Vaks et al., 2012

There is no evidence of widespread thawing of Arctic permafrost since Marine Isotope Stage 11 (MIS-11), approximately 450,000 years ago. None of the subsequent interglacial stages indicate widespread permafrost thawing, above 60°N, not even MIS-5 (Eemian/Sangamonian), which was about 2 °C warmer than present day, possibly as much as 5 °C warmer in the Arctic.

The last interglacial stage (MIS-5, Sangamonian/Eemian) was considerably warmer than the current interglacial and sea level was 3-6 meters higher than modern times. It was particularly warmer in the Arctic. Oxygen isotope ratios from the NGRIP ice core indicate that the Arctic was approximately 5 °C warmer at the peak of MIS-5 (~135,000 years ago).

It also appears that it was significantly warmer in the Arctic during the Holocene Climatic Optimum (~7,000 years ago) than modern times. The Arctic was routinely ice-free during summer for most of the Holocene up until about 1,000 years ago.

The best geological evidence for the Arctic methane time bomb being a dud can be found in the stratigraphy beneath Lake El’gygytgyn in northeastern Russia. The lake and its mini-basin occupy a 3.58 million year old meteor crater. Its sediments are ideally suited for a continuous high-resolution climate reconstruction from the Holocene all the way back to the mid-Pliocene. Unlike most other Arctic lakes, Lake El’gygytgyn, has never been buried by glacial stage continental ice sheets. Melles et al., 2012 utilized sediment cores from Lake El’gygytgyn to build a 2.8 million year climate reconstruction of northeastern Russia.

The data from Melles et al., 2012 are available from NOAA’s paleoclimatology library. And it is clearly obvious that Arctic summers were much warmer during MIS-11c (430-400 ka) than either the Eemian/Sangamonian (MIS-5e) or the Holocene (MIS-1)…

Figure 4. Comparison of warmest temperatures and sea level for MIS-11c, MIS-5e and MIS-1.
Figure 5. Figure 4 with vertical exaggeration to highlight differences.

Even though there may have been widespread melting of Arctic permafrost during the early part of MIS-11c, there’s no evidence that it caused any sort of catastrophic rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Figure 6. Atmospheric carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from Dome C in Antarctic (CDIAC).

Of course, there’s always the possibility that MIS-11c did experience a sub-resolution spike in greenhouse gases. Dome C can’t “see” short-duration spikes in atmospheric gases. We’re left with three possibilities:

  1. Much warmer temperatures and partial melting of permafrost during MIS-11c didn’t cause a spike in greenhouse gases.
  2. Much warmer temperatures and partial melting of permafrost during MIS-11c did cause a spike in greenhouse gases; but the Antarctic ice cores can’t resolve it.
  3. The unresolved spike in MIS-11c spike in atmospheric greenhouse gases caused the MIS-11c warming… but didn’t prevent the subsequent glacial stage cooling.

In other words…

What is the source of this stupidity?

When I first glanced at this article, I thought it was referring to a recent scientific paper. But the byline should have been a hint.


The authors:

Andrea Schmitz
Animation Producer

Business Insider

Andrea seems to specialize in “clickbait” articles.

The last one is easy, you become Thor from Avengers Endgame.

Bob Hunt
I studied and researched as a marine biologist for 8 years, with specific interests in marine mammals. Before moving into science writing and filmmaking as a way of connecting the public and science in a more harmonious and encouraging way. I love to write about anything from Animal biology to space exploration to the science of sport.

Business Insider

Bob topped Belushi by a full year.

For that matter, what is Business Insider?

Welcome! Business Insider is a fast-growing business site with deep financial, media, tech, and other industry verticals. Launched in 2007 by former top-ranked Wall Street analyst Henry Blodget and DoubleClick executives Dwight Merriman and Kevin Ryan, the site is now the largest business news site on the web. Business Insider was acquired by German media company Axel Springer SE in September, 2015.

Business Insider

It’s a “clickbait” shop. Here’s today’s “front page“:

Figure 7. Correction: Business Insider is a left-wing “clickbait” shop.

How could “Science Alert” publish such stupidity?

About Us
ScienceAlert is an independently run news website that covers the most important developments in the world of science and scientific research, while sharing fun, interesting information.

Our goal is to inspire, entertain, and educate knowledge-lovers worldwide, regardless of background or education level.

In a world of bad news, we think you’ll find something fascinating here every time you visit, and hopefully leave feeling a little smarter than when you arrived.

Editorial values
We write in a style that makes science accessible to anyone, but we never lose our strong grounding in evidence-based knowledge – so you know you can trust the cool stories you find here.

Our team of experienced journalists are no strangers to delving deep into the method section of the study they are covering, and they readily quiz experts when a claim looks too good to be true.

We are also proud of having a pre-publication fact-checking system; our dedicated staff systematically scrutinise every original article before it goes up.


Science Alert

A “clickbait” shop with the word “science” in the title.


If you really want any of the references, just ask for specific ones in the comments. If I think you seriously want to review them, I’ll provide them when I get…

Featured Image

Science Made Stupid: How to Discomprehend the World Around Us is a 1985 book written and illustrated by Tom Weller. The winner of the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book, it is a parody of a junior high or high school-level science textbook. Though now out of print, high-resolution scans are available online, as well as an abridged transcription, both of which have been endorsed by Weller [1]. Highlights of the book include a satirical account of the creationism vs. evolution debate and Weller’s drawings of fictional prehistoric animals (e.g., the duck-billed mastodon.)


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