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Letter: Models of Antarctic ice reflect researchers’ bias

Models of Antarctic ice reflect researchers’ bias

Regarding the article, “Model predicts rapid melt of Antarctic ice sheet,” models are only as good as the data they incorporate. Rather than being alarmist and selective, reporting the record of sea ice variations over hundreds of years or even decades would offer some understanding of the Earth’s natural cycles. Did the model reported on include the increased snowfall and depth of ice cover of the central continent of Antarctica? Did it include the data from the Australian Antarctic Division study?

It is important to recall the adage about modeling: garbage in, garbage out. Models reflect researchers’ bias. In the case of the New York Times article, there is very little data at all. Just fearmongering.

In the Australian study, researchers used a robot submarine made by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Institution in the United States to produce detailed 3-D maps of huge swaths of Antarctic sea ice. Using sonar, the submarine mapped three areas from different sides of the continent, which together make up an area equivalent to twice that of the United Kingdom. “We were surprised by what we saw,” researcher Guy Williams said. The ice was much thicker than expected.

Previous estimates based on a number of very limited methods like ship inspection and drilling suggested that only 20 percent of the winter sea ice was thicker than 1 meter. This study found that 90 percent of it is more than 1 meter thick, and indeed, 40 percent is thicker than 3 meters. Conclusion: Antarctic sea ice overall is increasing.

The record on climate is hardly settled, and whether humans have any serious impact on long-term climate is not at all clear.

Karen Harvey