Fake News about Holes in Antarctic Glaciers

CNN is breathless over a "Gigantic hole two-thirds the size of Manhattan discovered in Antarctic glacier."  I'm sure the reporters wish the hole actually were in Manhattan and included Trump Tower, but alas, the hole is far away from their nemesis, the president.

They describe it as "a massive cavity" that "has been discovered growing in an Antarctic glacier, signaling rapid ice decay that has shocked scientists."  It's growing at an "explosive rate" beneath the Thwaites Glacier, they anxiously report.


CNN's primary concern is that the melting glacier will flood the world, including its television studios.  How big is this "massive cavity"?

It's just a small hole within a glacier the size of Florida.  Manhattan is about 23 square miles, so a hole two thirds the size of Manhattan would be almost 16 square miles.  Yes, a hole is three-dimensional, and surface area is two-dimensional, but I'm simply trying to create perspective.

By comparison, Florida is 65,755 square miles.  The hole in the glacier is about 0.01 percent of the entire glacier, and the water released from the melt will not even be measurable in the ocean.  But CNN won't let that minor point interfere with its doomsday prognostications.

Not only CNN, but its other media brethren are also in a panic over this news.  The Hill reports a similar story, as does CBS News.  The only explanation offered in any of the articles is climate change — just as climate change was blamed for the polar vortex and recent cold spell in the Upper Midwest.

Media mavens attribute everything bad in the world to climate change.  Forbes believes that climate change caused ISIS.  Obesity is also blamed on climate change.

Why aren't the journalistic sleuths thinking beyond their preprogrammed left-wing talking points?  What else might be causing holes in the Antarctic glaciers?

I wonder if CNN ever considered volcanoes as the cause of glacial melting.  The network's cousins across the pond at The Guardian did.  They reported that scientists recently discovered 91 new volcanoes below the Antarctic ice sheet.  This is in addition to 47 already known volcanoes.

How many more volcanoes might be hidden below miles-thick ice?  As technology improves, more than the 140 known volcanoes may be discovered.

The Antarctica.eu website, readily available to CNN, provides some actual science, rather than Al Gore-style arm-waving.

First, "[t]he Thwaites Glacier is largely based well below sea level, as is the case for large parts of the West Antarctic ice shield."  This means that the glacier has already displaced water equivalent to its weight, if floating on the water, or its volume if still attached to the land.  This is why an ice cube in a glass of water doesn't raise the water level in the glass as it melts.

In other words, the current sea level already reflects the presence of the glacier in the sea, and the water level won't rise or fall depending on the solid or liquid state of the glacier below sea level.

It also happens that the Thwaites Glacier sits over an area of volcanoes.  The Independent reports, "Chemical data from water samples revealed an active source of volcanic heat beneath the Pine Island glacier, which is the fastest-melting glacier in the entire region."  The Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers are neighbors and flow together into the sea.

Melting of glaciers at their edges, meaning at the ocean, could be due to warmer ocean water.  But not the melting occurring at the glacier base, which is where the Manhattan-sized hole was found.

As the Antarctica.eu website describes it:

The Thwaites Glacier is accordingly losing large volumes of ice due to melting at its base.  The geothermal heat flux is not influenced by climate changes, as opposed to melting that takes place near the coast, in the contact zone with sea water which is getting increasingly warmer.

It seems that volcanic activity, not SUVs or toxically masculine backyard grilling, is causing the hole in the glacier.  How long have volcanoes been around?  Longer than people or animals.  They have always been a part of the Earth, whose crust floats on liquid magma, which occasionally burps to the surface in the form of an erupting volcano.

As the scientists describe it:

The glacier sits on something more like a multi-burner stovetop with burners putting out heat at different levels at different locations. ... And then you plop the most critical dynamically unstable ice sheet on planet Earth in the middle of this thing, and then you try to model it.  It's virtually impossible.

Another common theme arises: unpredictability.  Whether glaciers or climate, there are too many variables and too much uncertainty to create accurate models or make predictions.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explains why.  "The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible."

This won't stop CNN and other media from claiming to have all the answers and giving credence to Al Gore and Alexandria Occasional-Cortex and their doomsday predictions of how many years we have left before Planet Earth melts or explodes.

Science is the process of observing natural phenomena, formulating a hypothesis, to explain the phenomenon, then testing the hypothesis against future events.

Unfortunately, climate science has become the opposite, starting with a conclusion, then fudging the evidence to support the conclusion — just as Special Counsel Robert Mueller is doing with the Russia investigation.

Mueller's approach is from Beria: "Show me the man, and I'll show you the crime."  Climate science has become "Show me a natural event, and I'll find a way to blame it on global warming."

How refreshing if CNN and other media organizations could take an objective look at a natural phenomenon, do a few minutes of research, and then report facts, not conjecture, acknowledging what is known and even more importantly what is not known.

Brian C Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based physician and writer.  Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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