There’s a new article out there from Nature magazine doing the rounds in the somewhat hostile world of social media ‘fact checking’, essentially saying the Tipping Point for the Greenland Ice Sheet passed 20 years ago. Now, upon further study, the scientific journal doesn’t actually use this term, but the PhysOrg article does, as does the GlacierHub interview article with lead scientist Michalea King.
The Facebook “Fact Checking” warning attacks PhysOrg and CNN for using the terms ‘Tipping Point’ and ‘Point of No Return’ (again, not actually in the Nature article by King), but later removed the ‘warning’ from PhysOrg’s take, even though PhysOrg uses the forbidden ‘Tipping Point’ term, and places this point two decades in our past. GlacierHub is never mentioned in their shady ‘Fact Check’ piece, prolly because its readership is too small, or because so-called ‘fact checkers’ know they can’t really fool glacier enthusiasts anymore.
So what happened 20 years ago, out on the ice? Well, in glacier mass or gigaton terms, Greenland went from a state of Win Some – Lose Some in the 1980s and 1990s, to a step-changed new state of losing quite a bit of ice every single year. Scientists estimate that in our current climate, only one year per century will actually add glacier ice to the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) – and that’s if it doesn’t get warmer than now.
Now, the onset of the Tipping Point, then, is precisely defined as the years around the Millennium when it went from being relatively exciting to rather predictable in Greenland. There’s been a step-change, and the new normal seemed to be a loss almost every year, be it a small or a very large loss. Outside of thermal molecular expansion of salty water due to steady warming, Greenland is now the Planet’s main source of sea level rise.
King’s article also confirms the conclusions of the OMG Project – ‘Oceans Melting Greenland’ – the NASA project studying fjord-terminating glaciers on Greenland and their contribution to the overall melt of the GIS, namely that ocean heat is the culprit even for inland ice disintegration. Greenland’s basically a big slab of ice placed in the middle of Earth’s biggest island, one single massive ice sheet but with 2-300 outlet glaciers running down from it and terminating in salty fjord water. This means that indirectly, most if not all of the GIS is in contact with steadily warming ocean water.
Greenland’s under-ice topography also strongly suggests that absolutely massive melting (or deglaciation) events have happened before, to put it mildly. Those giant fjords weren’t carved out by themselves, and they go thousands of miles inland into the Greenland interior. This well-drained, it wouldn’t surprise me if a fast-forward from now would show it all running neatly into the ocean, in 200 separate directions. Some stranded ice, but this wouldn’t stand a chance in the future climate that allowed those hundreds of outlet glaciers to conclude their epic geological work.
Let us then return to the GlacierHub interview with Dr King and its understanding of Tipping Points, as this is where it REALLY gets interesting (readers with prior conditions should quit reading here). Put simply, a Tipping Point is when you leave an era of roughly equal chance for net loss/gain, and enter into one of near-certain losses of ice.
Another paper states “Tipping points are “points-of-no-return” – thresholds which, once surpassed, fundamentally change the dynamics of the climate system.” (Randers 2019).
Anyone who’s ever flown over Greenland or the Arctic Ocean knows that interior or mountain ice isn’t the only white stuff up here. In addition, seemingly endless stretches or ‘continents’ of sea ice extend out in three directions from its shores: East, North and West. From space these bright white areas are almost indistinguishable from each other. And the satellites viewing the Arctic from space have kept track of both glacier ice and the ice out at sea, where the latter of course is even more intimately affected by the same warming ocean, than the interior or mountain ice.
Can we find a similar step-change for sea ice, where we leave an era of roughly equal chance for net loss/gain, and enter into one of near-certain losses of ice, year over year?
Like for glacier ice in the GIS, ice gigatons or volume would be the ideal measure for loss/gain of Arctic sea ice. However, in the real world, we only have suboptimal satellite measurements of actual sea ice volume, and in addition suboptimal sea ice volume computer models. None of these separate land ice (freshwater ice) floating in the fjords from (salty) sea ice. But overall, sea ice volume would be the most appropriate measure because it doesn’t ignore the 80% of the ice mass not visible from space due to it being under water.
Sea ice area and extent are 2D or two-dimensional measures, only looking at thin surface ice cover. This means that for instance 2000 and 1980 might have the same numerical ice cover one day of the year, but with 2000 having half or a third of the total amount of ice. So the ice has gotten much thinner, but this is disguised by using a 2D metric. (Which some observers suspect is why the UN clings to it.) Sea ice area is more accurate in the sense of separating ice from water, but its drawback is it doesn’t really separate actual open sea water from melt ponds atop the floating sea ice (spring-summer). Sea ice extent tells you how big an area has SOME ICE, or more precisely 15% ice cover or more. So within a square kilometer of sea ice extent, there may be anything from 0.15 to 1 square kilometer of actual frozen sea ice. So none of the three main sea ice metrics are absolutely ideal, and this problem isn’t likely to be resolved until the matter of study is gone for thousands of years.
Still, because sea ice volume would be the ideal metric (if estimates and sources were better), and because it’s more consistent as it shows changes to a 3D physical object over time, the way actual things in the physical world freeze or melt, we’ll focus on Arctic sea ice volume in this essay.
So, in summary, we see — as we’d expect — a much earlier Tipping Point for the sea ice, which after all is just swimming in the same main heat source, the ocean, that also drives the disintegration of the inland GIS or Greenland Ice Sheet. It makes sense, therefore, to attribute at least some of the GIS melt to the fact that Greenland’s shores are becoming more and more ice-free, and thus oceanic, even though ocean warming due to atmospheric greenhouse gases remains the biggest driver of both processes.
But thus it also makes sense to talk about a larger Ice Tipping Point ahead of the chain of events or set of smaller Tipping Points, like the prime mover of a cascade of falling dominoes. For the removal of coastal and basin sea ice changes ocean circulation and offshore temperatures, in turn also atmospheric circulation, temperatures and pressure, directing cyclones and precipitation also way inland over the GIS. It’s been projected that increased rain events over the inland ice sheet will contribute immensely to its disintegration, combined with the resulting lowering of the ice sheet itself, which will result in higher temperatures because the altitudes go down. In short, Greenland will go from being an icy island in a sea of solid ice, to one seemingly misplaced in a sea of raging cyclones, rain showers, waves and swells.
Greenland ice will be, and is already being, attacked from all sides, literally, with warmer fjord water penetrating further and further inland, and sometimes lifting up parts of the glaciers, sometimes overcoming thresholds inland and expanding many more miles inland, under the ice sheet. Add to this the increased wet precipitation events and heat waves resulting from the loss of sea ice and the disintegration of the Arctic Jet Stream, that used to separate frigid air from more temperate and even tropical air masses and low pressure systems, and finally the fact that the GIS will melt faster the lower it gets in altitude, and only paid climate scientists will be able to say with a straight face that Greenland won’t lose all its ice very rapidly.
We’ve postulated an Arctic Ice Tipping Point (AITP) in our pre-Millennium past that will almost certainly result in a total loss of sea ice AND land ice in the Arctic. As a consequence further, the Arctic Ocean and therefore also its Siberian shallows will heat tremendously from the lowered albedo resulting from a much darker ocean surface (compared to bright white ice), and will likely get warmer and warmer year after year, inevitably collapsing the submerged permafrost stores of hydrates and other forms of subsea methane, or CH4.
The tiny finger setting the very first domino in motion is ours, let’s not forget, but the subsequent avalanche of falling dominoes won’t be us or require our touch. We initiate this landslide, and the consequences are simply enormous, global temperature hikes from putting gigatons of CH4 into our hemispheric and eventually global atmosphere being the icing on the cake, and in ITS TURN securing the total meltdown of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, on the opposite side of the Planet.
It is my belief that the Absolutely VAST consequences of that thing we DID, 3-7 decades ago, as a species to our Planet, triggering the AITP, should be kept in mind when analysing the often weird behaviour of paid climate scientists when it comes to collapse of the ice in general, and estimating the exact timing of the Ice Tipping Point in particular.
These assumed ‘authorities’ will say things that simply make no sense, and we’ll see them swimming in absurdities in most everything they say or write, all the while censoring honest reporting in mainstream and social media. But at least now we have a pretty clear picture of why they deceive our youth and all the rest of us.
Their silence on when we passed the Ice Tipping Point speaks volumes. A tiny, but growing number of exceptions to the rule is emerging: Jørgen Randers: “Self-sustained thawing of the permafrost is a robust phenomenon in ESCIMO. It only disappears when man-made emissions are stopped counterfactually as early as in the 1960es.” Michalea King: “Greenland Ice Sheet Already Reached Tipping Point 20 Years Ago”.