NASA’s Antarctic Interpretational Error

NASA observed a gain of altitude of much of Antarctica. From there NASA scientists deduced that Antarctica was gaining ice and snow. Unfortunately, as they admit, this leads them to predict that there is an unknown, massive cause of Sea Level Rise (SLR). The advantage is that this hypothesis makes nice with NASA’s sponsors (fossil fuels loving Republicans controlling Congress and the Supreme Court of the US). The disadvantage is that all SLR contributing factors have been accounted for, but one. And that one, NASA just denied, that it could possibly exist.

However, there is another interpretation differing vastly from the one NASA scientists made: Antarctica is gaining ice, snow, and… WATER. NASA did not see the water. How could it? Back to preschool: the water is below, the ice on top. See? The water is below, thus sight unseen. The ice is actually floating up. But that does not mean it’s not there. Actually the NASA map itself shows where the water is coming in. It’s not because one does not see something that one should not consider it. Progress in thinking is always achieved ONLY by considering what one has not considered before. So it’s always an exercise in atonement.

Water Sneaking Below The Ice: This Is The One Factor That Will Dominate Sea Level Rise, If It Does Not Already Do So

Water Sneaking Below The Ice: This Is The One Factor That Will Dominate Sea Level Rise, If It Does Not Already Do So

Of course such an explanation is valid only when there is water laying below the ice. But this is actually much of Antarctica, already. In some places, water goes below ice shelves, by 800 kilometers (500 miles). Much of the solid continent has lakes below the ice.

NASA’s Altitude Accumulation Map Shows Where Water Penetration Already Occurs

NASA’s Altitude Accumulation Map Shows Where Water Penetration Already Occurs

When NASA looks at this map, it claims that Antarctica is gathering snow. Indeed, globally, it is: warmer air carries more water, so, the warmer the air, the more it snows… until all turns to rain! This is why there are tropical downpours. This was fully expected by those, who, like me, believe in catastrophic temperature, and sea level, rise.

So NASA blares gigantic titles, to make its sponsors feel good about themselves, and thus expecting their gratitude: NASA Study: Mass Gains of Antarctic Ice Sheet Greater than Losses. In truth, all what NASA saw was:  NASA study: ALTITUDE Gains of Antarctic Ice Sheet Greater than Losses. Altitude is not mass. Oops!

However, the NASA map clearly shows something OMINOUS is going on. Antarctica is quite a bit like the space shuttle Columbia warmed by the hot fluid during its final re-entry in the Earth atmosphere. All the area in grey, green and a fortiori blue are losing altitude. They are not anymore north, or warmer: it is that water is sneaking in below, melting the ice which then contracts. Hence the loss of altitude, because ice occupies (roughly) ten percent more volume than water of the same mass.

So NASA’s map shows, at a glance, that around 10% of Antarctica is undermined by water (or then is in a zone of thinning due to accelerated flow, caused by underlining water, or proximity of underlying water accelerating and thining glacial flow).

But this is not all: the areas undermined and sinking, thus invaded by water below, are the gateways of the West Antarctic Ice Shield (WAIS), the Wilkes Basin, and the Aurora Basin.

WAIS is 1.97 x 10^6 square kilometers in area (a fifth of the area of the USA, Canada, or China). The ice sheet is more than 2,000 meters thick in many parts, and its icy belly rests 2555 meters below sea level, directly on the rock at its lowest (more than a mile and a half). If warm water got there, the WAIS, or portions thereof, would quickly disintegrate.

Remember the wing on Space Shuttle Columbia? Hot gases penetrated in one gap in the front of the wing, and then went all over inside, disintegrating the innards. Antarctica has at least a dozen similar holes, through which HOT WATER is sneaking in. Under the Totten glacier, the narrow gateway to the giant Aurora Ice Basin, hot water has already penetrated hundreds of kilometers.

More generally, this error of NASA, brings the question of what the scientific method is. One make a theory, and then one finds out whether the theory fits the fact better. If it does, it’s viewed as true (meaning more true). Depending how the new theory fits better and differs more, the difference between the new and the old theory can be viewed as the difference between “truth” and “error”.

That water is coming up below the ice explains SLR. NASA’s theory does not. This makes my theory experimentally superior to NASA. This is traditional evaluation of the correctness of one scientific theory relative to another.

However, there is more. I claim that when comparing scientific theories, one cannot just judge if one theory fits the known facts better.

An example is the theory of glaciations. It was started by a Frenchman in the early Nineteenth Century. The key observation was that huge continents are bunched around the North Pole, so their insolation is sensitive to Earth’s orbital elements.

The theory was launched by Joseph Alphonse Adhémar (1797–1862), a French mathematician. He published this fundamental idea in 1842, in his book Revolutions of the Sea.[1] It took 160 years, and sophisticated computers to check that the theory was right.

So what was the difference? The idea. A new complexity. Adhémar introduced the completely new idea, that astronomical forces changed earth’s climate. It was a new dimension of complexity (at the time scientists, including Goethe, had just uncovered the existence of past extensive glaciations).

The difference between an erroneous, obsolete theory and a better one is often an addition of logical dimension(s). Thus Einstein’s “General Relativity” predicted a faster precession of the perihelion of Mercury, because time slows down closer to the massive sun. This was the introduction of a new element of complexity: classical mechanics, but with VARIABLE time.

Similarly, my theory on Antarctica introduces a new element: water. That element not considered by NASA adds a logical dimension. That makes my theory more sophisticated. When comparing theories, one has to compare not just their experimental predictions, but their logical sophistication.

Patrice Ayme’

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6 Responses to “NASA’s Antarctic Interpretational Error”

  1. Partha Shakkottai Says:

    Hi Patrice: If all the remaining ice melts and mixes with sea water what would the sea level rise be?


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      In my scenario, the WAIS, Wilkes and Aurora deep under sea level glacial basins break down first. At that point the equivalent fjord like glaciers in Greenland will also go. I guess that’s about twenty meters of Sea Level Rise, quickly. Surprising everybody.
      Total melting would then ensue more slowly, and bring, over centuries, 70 meters of SLR. And a deep Jurassic climate.


  2. Patrice Ayme Says:

    [Sent to Azimuth]

    Optimism sells better.

    The problem is how much the three giant glacial basins in Antarctica, the WAIS, Wilkes and Aurora basins can take, before failing from warm water sneaking beyond the thresholds.

    In Equivalent CO2 we will be at 500 ppm within 6 years at most. Then Antarctica will be clearly unstable. A case can be made that water is already sneaking below the aforesaid basins:

    But German lignite will keep us warm, after Germany turns off its nuclear reactors.


  3. John Rogers Says:

    I think you’re right and it’s very troubling. The two simple facts of gravity and water having its highest density at 4 degree centigrade should worry a lot more people than it seems to be doing.

    The US has been the dominant presence in Antarctica for a long, long time and spends a lot of money there annually on maintaining bases, etc. It’s an obvious long term plutocratic project to lock up the resources and I’m wondering how what you’re talking about is going to affect that.
    Americans have a very deep faith that money=power=wisdom. We’re going to witness here again (as if the example of Trump wasn’t enough!) how wrong that is.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      The Antarctica peninsula as the New Kansas? You bet. Except there are too many mountains there. Same for future archipelago presently known as the WAIS.

      I am glad you appreciate my insistence of this Antarctica drama. If I am right, a quick twenty meters Sea Level Rise is over the logical horizon. And not only I am right, but a careful look at their own map shows that this is already going on. That it’s snowing more in the vast expanses of Antarctica at 3,000 meters high (2 miles up) is so besides the point…

      My spouse worked at NASA several years, on the scientific side of NASA, and quit, because the place was so incapable of understanding anything. And I am keeping the more juicy bits for another time. (I still have antennas out there, that’s why I know the Google guys fueled their jumbo jets at taxpayers’ expense under the illuminated guidance of the One who brought us change…)

      The greed orientation of American practical philosophy has been highly profitable to the USA. So far. And it’s hard to argue against success. Once I was at the mansion of a famous American architect. He became angry, red in the face, and threatening when he accused me to want to change the US Constitution (even Britain changes its oral Constitution… Because of Europe and say, the new British Supreme Court…)

      Afterwards I wondered why he got so angry. It was not the first case of such anger I had seen, out of an academic conversation of lofty, but related, topics. I think such (little) property owners feel that the riches they got were unfairly obtained, deep down inside, and it worries them deeply when somebody comes, bringing facts adverse to your equation: money = power = wisdom.

      As far as I can see, Trump is only just desserts. And it’s hilarious to see anti-Trump commercials accusing Trump to be a “liberal”. (He may well be considering everything is relative…)


  4. Patrice Ayme Says:

    [Sent to, march 17, 2016.]

    Prediction of one meter of Sea Level Rise in 2100 by the United Nations do not include melting of the ice sheets (because it’s hard to make a model and compute). However, that will happen.
    In spite of all the talk to the contrary:


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