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Blue Lakes in Antarctica and Lies from the Independent

August 25, 2016

By Paul Homewood




Put the Independent and Chris Mooney together, and what do you get? Alarmist drivel!



In a new study, scientists who study the largest ice mass on Earth – East Antarctica – have found that it is showing a surprising feature reminiscent of the fastest melting one: Greenland.

More specifically, the satellite-based study found that atop the coastal Langhovde Glacier in East Antarctica’s Dronning Maud Land, large numbers of “supraglacial” or meltwater lakes have been forming – nearly 8,000 of them during summer months between the year 2000 and 2013. Moreover, in some cases, just as in Greenland, these lakes appear to have then been draining down into the floating parts of the glacier, potentially weakening it and making it more likely to fracture and break apart.

This is the first time that such a drainage phenomenon has been observed in East Antarctica, the researchers say – though it was previously spotted on the warmer Antarctic Peninsula and was likely part of what drove spectacular events there like the shattering of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002.

When it comes to East Antarctica, however, “that’s the part of the continent where people have for quite a long time assumed that it’s relatively stable, there’s not a huge amount of change, it’s very, very cold, and so, it’s only very recently that the first supraglacial lakes, on top of the ice, were identified,” said Stewart Jamieson, a glaciologist at Durham University in the UK and one of the study’s authors.

The study was led by Emily Langley of Durham, who worked along with Jamieson and Chris Stokes from her university and Amber Leeson of Lancaster University. Their findings were recently published online by Geophysical Research Letters.

The research raises concern, for the following reason: Mounting evidence suggests one reason that Greenland has been melting so fast lately is precisely these kinds of lakes. In the summer as air temperatures warm, lakes form on top of the ice sheet, and on its finger-like glaciers that extend outwards into deep ocean fjords.

These lakes can then suddenly disappear all at once, or flow into rivers that drain into the ice below, lubricating the ice and helping to increase the lurch forward of glaciers. Sometimes, researchers have even been able to document fresh water flowing outward directly into the sea from the base of a glacier. That injection of cold fresh water into salty water can then create tornado-like underwater flow patterns at the submerged glacier front that cause further ice loss.

In the new study, Langley and her colleagues find large numbers of lakes forming atop Langhovde Glacier, both inland from, and outward from, the so-called “grounding line,” which is where the marine glacier touches the seafloor far below the ice surface. Past the grounding line, the glacier’s ice begins to float and forms an ice shelf, extending out across the surface of the ocean.

The occurrence of these lakes was strongly related to surface air temperatures – they formed when temperatures rose above zero Celsius, or, above freezing, and formed most frequently in the summer of 2012-2013, which saw 37 days with temperatures above the freezing point.

“What we find is that the appearance of these lakes, unsurprisingly, is correlated directly with the air temperature in the region, and so the maximum number of lakes, and the total area of the lakes, as well as the depth of the lakes, all of these things peak when the air temperatures peak,” said Jamieson.

The study found in particular that atop the Langhovde ice shelf, lakes not only formed but appeared to sometimes drain downward, as rapidly as in five days in one case (which is considerably slower than the fastest drainage events in Greenland).

This raises the concern that these events could possibly be weakening the ice shelf by widening or exploiting fractures within it. But Jamieson said the study could not prove that, in part because it is much harder to observe the consequences of lake draining events in Antarctica than it is in Greenland.



Apparently it has not crossed Looney’s mind that scientists have not actually looked for these melt lakes before, or that they might be perfectly natural and common events.


This is the paper he refers to:




The authors make it clear in the Introduction that no prior analysis of this phenomenon has been done before:

Here we present the first quantitative multiyear data set of lake evolution and distribution on an East Antarctic outlet glacier for the period between 2000 and 2013.


They find that ice melt is, unsurprisingly, strongly correlated to surface air temperature:

 Unsurprisingly, there is a strong correlation between supraglacial melt and surface air temperature (Figure S1), which determines the amount of energy available for melt each year [Bartholomew et al., 2010]. Lake initiation and evolution is directly correlated with surface air temperature and, more specifically, the number of positive degree days.


But what are the temperature trends in Dronning Maud Land?

There are two stations used by GISS located there, Neumayer and Novolazarevskaya. Neither show any warming trends on an annual basis:





But, more importantly, what has been happening during summer months?






Again, there is no evidence that summers are getting warmer. Indeed, the opposite appears to be true, with some of the warmest summers back in the early 1990s.


To be fair, the authors never attempted to claim that ice melt was getting worse. They have simply carried out an academic exercise.

Unfortunately, as is usually the case, the alarmist media jumps on any study like this to convince the public that we are all going to die.


The reality is much more mundane.

Even in Antarctica, there are occasionally days when the sun comes out, and temperatures creep above zero, causing small amounts of ice to melt. This is called weather, and has no doubt been occurring for millennia, during which time the Antarctic’s ice sheet has not collapsed.

Nothing in the temperature record suggests this will change in the immediate future.

  1. August 25, 2016 12:23 pm

    The main comment that comes to mind is that if these “scientists” were knowledgeable, they would have considered local temperature histories as part of their study before making comments about melting rates. HH Lamb would not have been impressed by such shallow reporting!

  2. August 25, 2016 12:50 pm


  3. 3x2 permalink
    August 25, 2016 1:55 pm

    Apparently it has not crossed Looney’s mind that scientists have not actually looked for these melt lakes before, or that they might be perfectly natural and common events.

    As with so much in the wacky world of fear mongering.

  4. roy andrews permalink
    August 25, 2016 2:14 pm

    ‘…..lakes not only formed but appeared to sometimes drain downward’ ……can’t wait for news of contrary draining!

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      August 25, 2016 4:45 pm

      Did you mean like this:
      … witnessed in this area a crevasse rapidly filling with water from below with such force that a fountain of water shot up about a meter.

      For general info, search for ‘ moulin ‘

      Moulins are holes through which the water flows into the interior of a glacier. The rushing water makes a loud noise, somewhat like a flour mill or grinder; hence the French word.

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      August 25, 2016 4:50 pm

      Here ya go Roy –

  5. August 25, 2016 2:16 pm

    Since a lot of snow will always fall on Antarctica there needs to be a lot of melting and iceberg formation, otherwise the oceans will dry up and all water will end up piled on top of the continent, but that simple fact does not sell a lot of newspapers, but neither does the ludicrous wolf-crying of so-called environmental journalists, speaking of which BBC radio 4 Today has gone rather quiet on the “Arctic Ship of Fools”, which they had planned to use on the daily Climate Change propaganda slot, but the ship has been delayed considerably by … ice.

    • August 25, 2016 2:41 pm

      OMG, this draining of the oceans is actually happening, Antarctica has been GAINING ice recently:

      “According to the new analysis of satellite data, the Antarctic ice sheet showed a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001. That net gain slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008.”, from here:

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      August 25, 2016 4:53 pm

      Annual snow in such places is not much but melting is rare. A place such as Mt. Baker in the State of Washington gets real snow: the record is 1,140 inches [28956 mm].

  6. August 25, 2016 4:21 pm

    ‘Supraglacial lakes can occur in all glaciated areas.’

    Back to the alarmist drawing board, time for the next fake scare.

  7. mwhite permalink
    August 25, 2016 5:52 pm

    Discussed on BBC Inside Science. Note the comments on the Hunt for Vulcan(Planet Vulcan).

    • August 25, 2016 11:03 pm

      The shopw contradicts something Paul says above “To be fair, the authors never attempted to claim that ice melt was getting worse.”
      and on the show :

      GarethM asked the guest so is this a sign of Climate Change ?
      She -replied “well we’ve only been there 13 years so its too early to say
      .. but it is predicted that we will have more summer hot spells in future in the area, so that will have an effect”

      Isn’t that an example of reporting bias ??…cos if she had sure signs she’d be crowing
      ..but when she has almost no signs..she refuses to say “not really”, but is saying “probably in future”
      She just added
      “the lakes now are too small and too sparse to have a mass effect”

      Note the prog blurb

      We examine observations from space of fleeting blue lakes in East Antarctica. They come and go with the seasons, forming during the warmer months of the south pole summer. As Amber Leeson of Lancaster University explains, many of the lakes then drain away, an effect already been found in Greenland but never, until now, in this part of the Antarctic *. And their effect is cause for concern.
      * cos as Paul says above , they never looked before

      • August 26, 2016 8:09 am

        Classic confirmation bias…

        ‘Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.’

        See it every day in climate alarmist media reports.

  8. August 25, 2016 8:59 pm

    “lakes not only formed but appeared to sometimes drain downward”. Quick, someone tell the world–gravity is real. Fluids DO flow downhill. Who knew? Next let us look at the situation with the world being spherical instead of flat.

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      August 25, 2016 11:31 pm

      “the world being spherical instead of flat.”

      Don’t be silly Joan, it’s square, I saw it on TV years ago….so it must be true.

  9. tom0mason permalink
    August 26, 2016 1:47 am

    When will they get round to having an alarming report about Deception Island and the unbelievably warm water there.

    Deception Island contains several areas of heated ground, etc, which are a conspicuous and normal surface expression of heat escape on the island. ….
    Temperatures of most are < 40-60°C, but a beach pool at Pendulum Cove commonly reaches 70°C and fumaroles at Fumarole Bay are generally 100-107°C. Temperatures fluctuate daily, typically in response to tides. Sudden subsidence of the sea floor beneath Whalers Bay in 1920-21 also caused the sea to boil and blistered the paint on ships’ hulls. In addition to the possible presence of noxious gases and hydrothermal explosions, people may be scalded by unprotected exposure to steam or very hot water (e.g. Pendulum Cove).

    Surely it must be time to misinform the public about this too.

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      August 26, 2016 7:35 am

      Even more Deception !!
      My Plasticine model shows –
      It’s where 97% of the heat that’s hiding in the deep ocean comes out.

      Can I have my Grant & trips to exotic ‘conferences’ please.

  10. Curious George permalink
    August 26, 2016 2:26 am

    Is it the Independent which “disappeared” a famous article Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past?

  11. August 26, 2016 3:16 am

    There are Blue-ice areas (BIAs) that cover ⇠1% of the East Antarctic ice sheet where more snow is sublimated and/or eroded than is accumulated. The formation of BIAs can be divided into two main processes: roughly half is classified as wind-induced BIA, while the other half is melt-induced..

    A melt-induced BIA shows a more irregular surface with depressions and hollows. When meltwater refreezes near the surface, or runs off to lower-lying areas, it can form lakes in surface depressions. Melt-induced BIAs are often found near the Antarctic coast, where temperatures are high enough to produce significant melt.

    I don’t know if this is a Melt-induced BIA or not I would have to more research.

    Put – “On the formation of blue ice on Byrd Glacier, Antarctica” into Google and get a PDF.

  12. Ben Vorlich permalink
    August 26, 2016 9:07 am

    The only practical experience I have is the winters in rural Perthshire including 1962/63. From that I deduce two things, that snow and ice melt in direct sunshine, but more importantly whilst snow and ice are melting in direct sunshine areas in the shade remain at or below freezing. This effect is particularly noticeable on clear sunny days of anti-cyclonic weather. As children we always tried to sledge on shaded slopes as snow quality was better than the slushy stuff found on sunlight slopes.

    So if I was looking at this effect I’d check out hours of sunshine as well as air temperature.

  13. August 26, 2016 5:03 pm

    Here some pictures of Lambert Glacier showing surface melt. I believe the so called blue lakes on Langhovde Glacier are normal as explained in my last post.

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