Panic! Fear! Horror! Antarctic Glaciers Are Melting!

You have to love the headline from “To Scientists’ Horror, Antarctic Ice Begins Unstoppable Collapse: Point of No Return Has Passed, Researchers Say.”

If only they had used exclamation points.

Two groups of scientists studying the West Antarctica ice sheet have come to the same chilling conclusion: The mighty glaciers have begun a thaw that will cause sea levels to rise 10 feet or more and there’s nothing we can do about it. “A large sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into a state of irreversible retreat,” says the lead author of one paper, explaining that warming waters are destabilizing the edge of a vast amount of ice and causing a slow collapse in a process he likens to uncorking a full bottle of wine that is resting on its side, Reuters reports.

So that’s it. Flee from the coasts. Head to the mountains. If you live in New York than find room up on the third floor or above in one of the taller buildings. The water is rising.

Except it is not. “The thaw and sea level rise is expected to happen over the next few centuries…”

Many headlines about these allegedly independent reports were hyped beyond reason. They were so bad that the Global Warming alarmist at Dot Earth, Andrew C. Revin, was embarrassed by them and tried to talk some sense.

That’s why it’s important to get beyond headlines — including the titles of papers — in considering new research pointing to the inevitable “collapse” of ice sheets in West Antarctica. To the public, collapse is a term applied to a heart attack victim on a street corner or a building stricken by an earthquake or bomb. To a glaciologist, it describes the transition to unavoidable loss of an ice sheet — a process that can take centuries to get into gear, and millenniums to complete.

Not centuries now, millennia (which is the proper plural form of “millennium”).

That last link is also revealing because Revin writes about the same melting ice sheets back in 2009. What is really new about these studies?

In fact, this entire panic was published in 1922! The real science blog posted this newspaper story.

In many parts of the world geologists find signs that seem to point to a time when the sea level was much higher than it is now. In British Columbia, along the Rocky Mountains, and the Andes, and on many mountain ranges of the Old World also are prehistoric sea beaches, all at an average of 1,000 ft. above the pre-sent margin of the sea. Many regions of high land have, we know from other evidences, been bodily raised by volcanic action or by the crinkling of the earth’s surface (the Himalayas, for instance,  though the biggest, is almost the youngest mountain range), but the existence of so many old beaches at about the same height above the present beaches has suggested the theory that the sea itself was once a thousand feet deeper than it is today (observes “Everyday Science”).

If so, what has become of the enormous mass of water that vanished or was withdrawn when the ocean level fell 1,000ft.? It is now held prisoner in the polar ice-caps, and especially in that of the South Pole. The world, we know, has at immense intervals alternated between glacial epochs and warm epochs. Those high beaches were made by the sea, it is averred, when in the last warm epooh both polar ice-caps had shrunk to their smallest dimensions, and all the water pent up in high-piled ice fields and glaciers had been released to find its level over the globe. Then came a glacial epoch with a reforming of the ice and a shrinking of the sea to a level much lower than its present. We are now, it is believed, slowly approaching another warm epoch, when, if it becomes universal, affecting both hemispheres together, the ice will again melt, and the sea rise to its ancient level, submerging an enormous portion of what is now dry and thickly populated land. According to another view the melting of the ice and rise of the sea may occur comparatively suddenly instead of being a very gradual process, spread over many centuries. The formation of ice is not equal at both Poles; the Antarctic ice-cap is much the more extensive and more massive, and, they hold, it is actually still increasing by evaporation from the immense sea areas of the Southern Hemisphere and condensation over the great ice-covered Antarctic continent. With ice ever forming above and a sea gradually growing warmer below, the process must eventually overbalance, the undermined glaciers disintegrate, and the ice-caps break up. Mountain after mountain of ice will fall into the sea, bes wept northwards by the currents, and melt, thus bringing about, but at a much more rapid rate, the threatened inundation of the land by the rising of the sea to its ancient level. Conceivably some such breaking-up of a polar ice-cap has occurred once before since man appeared on the earth. The Biblical deluge and the almost universal story, common to the mythology or traditions of peoples in all parts of the world, of a world-wide flood may have had its origin in the melting of the ice at the Pole and the pouring toward the equator of the pent-up waters.

So this is what we are supposed to be scared about. Which is going to be harder to deal with? A ten-foot rise in sea level in a thousand years or a world where producing energy is illegal or so constrained that only the rulers get to enjoy cars and electricity?

They want to scare you into submission. Don’t panic.