Different journalistic interpretations of the same scientific study

2013-04-15

in Geek stuff, Politics, Science, The environment, Writing

Google News stories about antarctic melting 2013-04-15

Here’s the actual abstract from “Acceleration of snow melt in an Antarctic Peninsula ice core during the twentieth century“, published in Nature Geoscience:

“Over the past 50 years, warming of the Antarctic Peninsula has been accompanied by accelerating glacier mass loss and the retreat and collapse of ice shelves. A key driver of ice loss is summer melting; however, it is not usually possible to specifically reconstruct the summer conditions that are critical for determining ice melt in Antarctic. Here we reconstruct changes in ice-melt intensity and mean temperature on the northern Antarctic Peninsula since AD 1000 based on the identification of visible melt layers in the James Ross Island ice core and local mean annual temperature estimates from the deuterium content of the ice. During the past millennium, the coolest conditions and lowest melt occurred from about AD 1410 to 1460, when mean temperature was 1.6 °C lower than that of 1981–2000. Since the late 1400s, there has been a nearly tenfold increase in melt intensity from 0.5 to 4.9%. The warming has occurred in progressive phases since about AD 1460, but intensification of melt is nonlinear, and has largely occurred since the mid-twentieth century. Summer melting is now at a level that is unprecedented over the past 1,000 years. We conclude that ice on the Antarctic Peninsula is now particularly susceptible to rapid increases in melting and loss in response to relatively small increases in mean temperature.”

From the full text: “The nonlinearity of melt observed in the JRI ice-core record also highlights the particular vulnerability of areas in the polar regions where daily maximum temperatures in summer are close to 0˚C and/or where summer isotherms are widely spaced, such as along the east and west coasts of the Antarctic Peninsula. In these places even modest future increases in mean atmospheric temperature could translate into rapid increases in the intensity of summer melt and in the poleward extension of areas where glaciers and ice shelves are undergoing decay caused by atmospheric-driven melting.”

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