Global Warming Fever Over Glacier Thaw
The media took global warming off the back burner this week to hype an isolated study showing glaciers in Greenland are melting faster than previously thought. But in reporting the story, they ignored another October 2005 study showing Greenlands glaciers are increasing in thickness at higher elevations. They also ignored cyclical temperature patterns in the North Atlantic, which may explain increased glacier melting in southern Greenland.
Leading off his February 17 front-page story, The Washington Posts Shankar Vedantam wrote that Greenlands glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, the result of a warming trend that renders obsolete predictions of how quickly Earths oceans will rise over the next century.
The previous evening, ABCs Bill Blakemore raised the specter of the worlds beaches slowly being swallowed. Greenlands ice sheet holds enough water to raise the world's sea level by 21 feet, if it were all to melt, the science reporter gloomily warned, adding that scientists currently believe that would take centuries, but warn if global warming does not stop, it will happen.
Neither report consulted any expert who didnt believe global warming was to blame, and neither reporter noted that an October 2005 study report in the journal Science found that Greenlands glaciers were thickening at higher elevations while melting at lower elevations.
Myron Ebell, director of global warming and international environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Business & Media Institute that predictions for rapid melting ... are based on exploiting the publics lack of understanding of the time scales involved, adding, were not talking about a few years but one or two thousand years. Thats a reasonable assumption, but given the historical record, it may turn out that Greenland wont melt significantly at all before the next ice age begins, even if that isnt for five or ten thousand years.
Climate scientist Pat Michaels also had problems with the new study the media have latched onto. Why would Science publish this paper with no reference to Johannessens earlier paper showing that Greenland is accumulating ice at a rate of about 5.4 [plus or minus] 0.2cm/year, Michaels asked in a February 17 article at TCSDaily.com. He added that temperature fluctuations around Greenland are part of a phenomenon known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) ... swings from being cooler than normal both in the ocean around Greenland and in the tropical Atlantic, to being warmer than normal in both places. And modelers have suggested that the AMO has been part of the natural system for at least the past 10-15 centuries.
The Business & Media Institute has previously reported on media distortions on climate change, particularly those of ABC's Bill Blakemore.