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Study Suggests Greenland’s Ice Sheet Has Melted Beyond Return

August 18, 2020

By Paul Homewood


This story has been doing the rounds around all of the gullible media, it seems.


Greenland’s ice sheet is the second largest body of ice in the world, but global warming has been causing it to melt rapidly in decade prior to now. Despite efforts to halt the heating of the planet, such as the Paris Climate Agreement, climate work has seemingly proved futile, and experts warn it may now be too little, too late.

Research from the Ohio State University Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center reviewed Greenland’s ice sheet over the last 40 years and found that the ice is melting much faster than it has a chance to recover.

The study also found that if global warming was miraculously solved today, it would still be too late for the ice sheet.

Michalea King, the study’s lead author, said: "What we’ve found is that the ice that’s discharging into the ocean is far surpassing the snow that’s accumulating on the surface of the ice sheet."

Ian Howat, a glaciologist and co-author on the paper, added: "Glacier retreat has knocked the dynamics of the whole ice sheet into a constant state of loss.

"Even if the climate were to stay the same or even get a little colder, the ice sheet would still be losing mass."

Mr Howat told CNN: "We’ve passed the point of no return, but there’s obviously more to come.”

The ice covering Greenland is up to three kilometres thick in certain places, covering an area seven times the amount of the UK. If all of this ice were to melt, it would cause sea levels to rise by a staggering seven metres, which could have major implications for the UK.

According to the latest study, all the ice on Greenland could melt by the year 3000.

Sky News are equally apocalyptic:

It will now gain mass only once every 100 years, and if all the ice melts, it would push sea levels up by roughly six metres.

As usual, the wording of the media reports is nearly identical, unsurprising because they are all quoting from the University press release.

However, the actual study says something quite different:





The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing mass at accelerated rates in the 21st century, making it the largest single contributor to rising sea levels. Faster flow of outlet glaciers has substantially contributed to this loss, with the cause of speedup, and potential for future change, uncertain. Here we combine more than three decades of remotely sensed observational products of outlet glacier velocity, elevation, and front position changes over the full ice sheet. We compare decadal variability in discharge and calving front position and find that increased glacier discharge was due almost entirely to the retreat of glacier fronts, rather than inland ice sheet processes, with a remarkably consistent speedup of 4–5% per km of retreat across the ice sheet. We show that widespread retreat between 2000 and 2005 resulted in a step-increase in discharge and a switch to a new dynamic state of sustained mass loss that would persist even under a decline in surface melt.

So all they have found is that ice melt speeded up between 2000 and 2005, not exactly something we did not know about.

But the paper goes on:

 The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) has been losing mass for several decades1 due to both increased surface meltwater runoff and ablation of marine-terminating outlet glaciers via calving and submarine melting, termed ice discharge…..

We find that GrIS-wide discharge is now ~14% greater than the rate observed during 1985–1999, following an observed step-increase during the early 2000’s.

Following the step-increase in discharge, GrIS-wide totals have remained relatively stable at rates near 495–500 Gt yr−1, reflecting an increase that was sufficient to effectively shift the ice sheet to a state of persistent mass loss.

Fig. 1


In other words, ice sheet loss stopped accelerating around 2005. Ice mass loss of 500 Gt a year may sound a lot, but Greenland’s ice sheet weighs about 2.6 million Gt.


While there has been a small retreat of glaciers, the state of the bulk of the ice sheet at higher and colder altitudes is much more stable, as temperatures rarely get above zero. Here the key factor is snow downput.

The paper does go on to say:

In all regions except the SE, outlet glacier thinning was due, at least in part, to glacier discharge exceeding the long-term balance flux, indicating dynamic disequilibrium associated with a longer-term retreat. This is consistent with the retreat of these glaciers earlier in the 20th century

This acknowledges the fact that glacial retreat began long before the 21stC, and what we are seeing is simply part of a process which began at the end of the Little Ice Age, an era which has been described as the coldest in Greenland since the Ice Age.

To sum up:

  • Greenland’s ice cap is not going to disappear.
  • There won’t be 6 meters of sea level rise.
  • The study has simply looked at the last three decades, and thus ignores the cyclical patterns, which brought Greenland temperatures similar to now in the 1930s
  • It also ignores the longer term historical perspective, showing that Greenland’s climate has been warmer than now for most of the Holocene.
  • They also present no evidence at all the ice sheet has “melted beyond return”.
  • There is no evidence that Greenland will not revert to a much colder climate in decades to come, just as it did between 1960 and 1990.
  • In the long run, Greenland’s ice sheet will regain equilibrium, just as it always has in the past
  1. CheshireRed permalink
    August 18, 2020 2:27 pm

    Time some of these ‘studies’ were challenged in court. Is that possible?

    There’s not the slightest doubt these ‘studies’ are fake, and are written with one intention; to drive alarmist headlines. In turn those headlines terrify the public into subservience and drive public policy, which in turn will enrich those who benefit whether professionally or financially.

    It’s well past time these claims were shredded in an environment where lying wil not be tolerated.

    • C Lynch permalink
      August 18, 2020 4:48 pm

      Given the performance of the the Superior Courts in Brexit and other issues it is clear that the majority of judges on these benches are not impartial and many support a radical left world view. Challenging these frauds in the Courts would be a total waste of time and would merely result in false validation for this kind of sophistry.

    • Harry Davidson permalink
      August 18, 2020 4:50 pm

      No, they are simply intended to win grant money and promotion. The rest is mechanism.

  2. Geoff B permalink
    August 18, 2020 2:39 pm

    Global warmist interpret the data as showing catastrophic warming. Sensible people interpret the same data as not much happening at all. Statisticians create a null hypothesis and analyse the data to come up with a significance level, such as “what is the likelihood of all the ice melting by the year 3000” probably 1 in 10 million. Incidentally why are 9 people authoring a fairly simple dissertation, nothing to do with grants and sponsorship for climate warming advocates!!!

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      August 19, 2020 12:07 am

      But just in case I won’t be living by the sea in 3000 A.D.

      • jack broughton permalink
        August 19, 2020 3:03 pm

        I moved from the NE Coast 40 years ago in anticipation of the floods of course. My pal left Hull for Amsterdam a few years ago and is watching as Hull disappears under the North Sea….. from below sea-level. Maybe we won’t make 3000 AD to see this disaster unfold.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 19, 2020 2:24 pm

      Common practice to cram in lots of names as they believe it gives ‘prestige’. There may even be a couple of names we don’t recognise that are bigwigs in this field and being to add them brings mucho kudos even if they might have just read it at the end. But then you recall Einstein and his ‘it only takes one person to prove me wrong’…..

  3. August 18, 2020 2:44 pm

    So how is the Zero Carbon Humber 2040 project going ?
    The entire regions railway are non-electric (apart from the mainline which touches for a couple of miles)
    And this week planning permission has been granted for another gas power station at Immingham next to the companies existing one

  4. Broadlands permalink
    August 18, 2020 2:58 pm

    This melting beyond return is a part of the so-called Arctic amplification where it is asserted that the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on the globe. If true, the Northern hemisphere temperatures should be well above their long-term value of 14.6°C and the Southern hemisphere below it’s value of 13.4°C. The two hemispheres when averaged should be the global mean… currently around 14.8°C. Where are the data that are consistent with that?

    • Peter Gill permalink
      August 18, 2020 8:03 pm

      One must wonder how an area with few temperature data sources is so well known to be warming so much faster than the rest of the globe. GISS with 250 km smoothing shows mostly grey (no data) in polar regions, but when using 1200 km smoothing suddenly the (interpolated & extrapolated) anomaly becomes enormous.
      DMI’s N of 80 Arctic temps show no increase in summer high temperatures relative to the ERA40 1958-2002 reanalysis, yet summer ice decline is much larger than winter?

  5. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 18, 2020 3:21 pm

    NTZ comment:

    “The ice sheet has covered large parts of Greenland for the last 2-3 million years, but active glaciers and constant melting have meant that the ice has been recycled many times. The aging ice sheet is only a few metres thick at the ice fringe, but more than 3,200 metres (10,500 feet) thick at its highest point.”

    Really sounds like a largely imagined 1.5C of warming will consign it to the history bin!

  6. Phillip Bratby permalink
    August 18, 2020 3:28 pm

    It is now obviously too late to stop the ice sheet disappearing by 3000, so we might as well carry on burning lots of fossil fuels and hope that by 3000 our great…………………. great grandchildren have the technology to live under 7m of water.

    • Stonyground permalink
      August 18, 2020 4:09 pm

      Like they have in the Netherlands you mean?

  7. John189 permalink
    August 18, 2020 4:05 pm

    I have a pet theory, though as of now it lacks the authority of peer review. Just supposing that the prediction of complete melt by 3000 has some credibility (and I don’t think it does!), then long before all the ice has melted the spreading of a pool of increasingly cold water in the north Atlantic will trigger the conditions for a return to full-on Ice Age.

    But on a serious point, I see no value in any study which predicts an phenomenon so far into the future in isolation.

  8. Ian Wilson permalink
    August 18, 2020 4:13 pm

    The Jakobshavn Glacier has been reported lengthening significantly for three years. Does anyone have an update Whether this trend is continuing?

  9. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    August 18, 2020 4:20 pm

    My understanding is that at recent rates of melting the whole sheet cannot melt before the next glaciation. Plus there is a mahoosive lake in the middle of green land.

  10. Thomas Carr permalink
    August 18, 2020 4:47 pm

    Anyone know of a science periodical which is willing to subject the conclusions of communications Earth and Environment to the sort of scrutiny that Paul has given to the matter and his summations?
    If the answer is yes , when do they start?
    If the answer in no we are allowed to believe that the racket a referred to by Geoff B. above is just that.
    The global warming proponents are shy about scrutiny and as part of a consensus have a lot to lose — apart from their funding. The Climate Research dept. at UEA Norwich have yet to recover their composure.
    One hopes that one or two periodicals still retain a sense of objectivity, intellectual rigour etc.

  11. bluecat57 permalink
    August 18, 2020 4:58 pm

    Common sense says: BULL (expletive deleted)

    Dennis Prager has a rule of thumb (can’t think of the right word, adage, postulate):

    “Ever since I attended college, I have been convinced that either “studies” confirm what common sense suggests or that they are mistaken.”

  12. Lez permalink
    August 18, 2020 5:06 pm

    A bit OT, but our beloved Lewis Hamilton must be a strong contender for green hypocrite of the year.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      August 19, 2020 8:20 am

      Hamilton s a prime example of what happens when someone pretty dim but with a single talent is allowed to believe that talent makes his opinions on other subjects interesting. He’s just a bandwagon jumper.

  13. August 18, 2020 5:11 pm

    There is also this news.

    Usually in mid-August, Greenland’s surface mass balance (SMB) is LOSING 4 Gigatons of snow & ice a day. Not yesterday, however — on Aug 10, 2020, the ice sheet GAINED a record-smashing 4 Gigatons of global warming goodness (and just listen to the silence coming from the MSM, it has so much to say).

    Before this year, the Greenland ice sheet had never grown anywhere-close to 4 Gigatons in any of the months of June, July, or August, according to DMI records (which go back to 1981). In addition, the DMI record books also reveal that yesterday’s 4 Gt GAIN smashed the previous mid-Aug record by over 2 full Gigatons.

    Here are the latest (Aug 10, 2020) measurements:

    • Peter Gill permalink
      August 18, 2020 8:05 pm

      Perhaps, but SMB has been negative the past couple of days…

  14. Argiris Diamantis permalink
    August 18, 2020 6:01 pm

    They warn of a “historical cold and snow event” this week in South American countries, which will affect a large part of Argentina, including Misiones
    AUGUST 17, 2020
    The Brazilian meteorology company MetSul warned this Sunday that a “very intense” polar air mass will reach half of the Brazilian territory and a large part of South American countries, such as Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina, from the Litoral, NOA and Center of the country, including Buenos Aires. “The event has the potential to be a historical record of cold and snow,” they warned.
    The forecast issued indicates that an “Antarctic air” will advance over a large part of Argentina and will reach extensions of Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Peru and even Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.
    The report released by MetSul also warns that the models in the last hours and days indicate intensity of “snow in Uruguay, as well as in Argentina nearBuenos Aires, in the provinces of Santa Fe and Entre Ríos,” they specified.
    It will also cover most of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, among other Brazilian states. “Almost every year there are strong cold air masses in southern Brazil, but they will be exceptionally strong and wide during the second half of August. The drop in temperature will be felt from Wednesday of this week in Rio Grande do Sul, while between Thursday and Friday it will be noticed in other Brazilian regions, “they specified from Metsul.
    Thursday, Friday and early Saturday will be very cold days in southern Brazil. As the air mass will be too cold, it is common to arrive with moderate to strong wind that will bring a thermal sensation with very low and negative values ​​in many locations.
    Uruguay below zero
    INUMET, the Uruguayan meteorological service, published a report last Friday with the weather outlook until August 22 and again announced minimum temperatures below zero for this week that just is beginning.
    .North of the Negro River, a clear drop in temperatures is expected towards Friday, August 21, reaching minimums between -5 ° C and -2 ° C and maximums of between 11 ° C and 14 ° C, which will remain during Saturday August 22nd.
    In addition, from Tuesday to Wednesday, instability is expected in the upper levels of the atmosphere and the passage of a cold front with little activity. Finally, on Friday 21 the region will be affected by a post-frontal high pressure system.
    “The polar wave will enter through Argentina”
    MetSul Meteorology indicated in its report that the intense polar air mass, which will reach practically half of the Brazilian territory and much of South America this week with the potential to be a historical cold and snow event, will be a “true air bubble Antarctic ”that will advance through Argentina and will reach the south, midwest, southeast and part of northern Brazil through its continental trajectory, as well as Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Peru and even Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. Thus, the influence of cold air, however modest, must cross the equator and reach the northern hemisphere, where it is summer.
    What happens in Argentina? Does the snow reach Misiones?
    According to the Meteored portal, regardless of the usual snowfall that may occur between Monday and Tuesday in the Patagonian and Mendoza mountain ranges, this exceptional mass of cold air will leave snowfall in those parts of the country where it usually does a few times a year or sometimes even not at all. .It will be necessary to put the focus of attention from Tuesday night on the Sierras de Ventania, in the south of the Province of Buenos Aires. The height of this mountainous group is always an excellent place to see snow in winter under the influence of these Antarctic air masses.
    According to the latest updates, the snow could be gaining ground over the south of Buenos Aires in the early hours of Wednesday, affecting the area of ​​Sierra de la Ventana, Tres Arroyos, Coronel Dorrego and Coronel Pringles.
    During Wednesday, showers of water will be frequent on the coastline, from Mar del Plata to the south, but, towards the night of this day and early Thursday, there could be the fall of snowflakes, with less probability but not null towards Villa Gesell, Pinamar and Partido de la Costa.
    In Mendoza, the snow in the mountain range would gain ground at low levels as of early Wednesday morning. There is a probability of snowfall in San Rafael, Valle de Uco, Potrerillos and also the great capital city, with a greater chance in Greater Mendoza.
    High sectors of San Juan, as well as the San Luis and Córdoba mountains are other places where it is quite likely that Wednesday will dawn with a layer of fresh snow.

  15. Harry Passfield permalink
    August 18, 2020 7:32 pm

    According to the latest study, all the ice on Greenland could melt by the year 3000

    – or could not! And who will know, of those alive today? There really ought to be an embargo on studies that have such a long end-date on them so that they cannot be used as short-term propaganda. But who would propose such a law? Not any of our law-makers, in thrall as they are to the climate communists. There was a time when newspapers had some scruples – they couldn’t spell the word now.

  16. yonason permalink
    August 18, 2020 9:01 pm

    A little perspective.

    Also of note.
    Ancient Greenland was green. New Danish research has shown that it was covered in conifer forest and, like southern Sweden today, had a relatively mild climate.”

  17. August 18, 2020 10:19 pm

    Excellent video by Tony Heller at this link:

  18. tom0mason permalink
    August 19, 2020 1:03 am

    Mr Howat told CNN: “We’ve passed the point of no return, but there’s obviously more to come.”

    This is utter nonsense!
    There is not a real scientist on the planet that should agree with this baloney ( that passed the point of no return ). Natural climate processes are largely chaotic with many apparent quasi-cyclic features. Unless Mr. M. D. King, Mr Howat, et al., have a particularly accurate crystal ball there is NO way of knowing how long any particular naturally chaotic process will take. (No more than the Met Office, using £billion computers, can precisely predict days before the event, where and when thunder storms will happen. It’s all too chaotic!)

    These people are completely ignorant of history, Greenland once had much less ice and snow on it; back in a time when the Vikings settled there, they enjoying the green and productive land Greenland had to offer. At that time how much higher were the seas and oceans — hint not 6 meters!
    Can these people accurately explain why this happened then, and accurately and precisely explain how the weather/climate events changed so the warm period ended — no they can’t. And without such exacting knowledge and understanding they can not possibly understand what processes govern Greenland’s weather and climate today.

    Mr. M. D. King, Mr Howat, et al., are just ignorant alarmists wasting public money on foolish agenda driven hype. They should be sacked for publishing this rubbish! As this planet exits the Little Ice Age (LIA) it is NATURAL that ice, snow, and glaciers boundaries should retreat, or do these climate clowns, Mr. M. D. King, Mr Howat, et al., believe that the climate should be static or even revert back to the LIA freezing levels?

  19. August 19, 2020 3:53 am

    The end of the line for poor old Greenland

  20. August 19, 2020 10:23 am

    This sort of approach has always been present in art: flatter your sponsor, put them on a par with deities and place them in an idyll.

  21. yonason permalink
    August 19, 2020 11:26 am

    Tony Heller truth-bombs the warmists.

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