The Ice Melt Cometh: But flawless coverage about happenings in Antarctica has been rare
A variety of news outlets has covered two papers published this week indicating that the Weddell Sea area of Antarctica might be susceptible to faster-than-expected ice loss, but most went astray in one way or another.
The most troublesome of the bunch was the piece from Reuters whose lede reads:
Scientists are predicting the disappearance of another vast ice shelf in Antarctica by the end of the century that will accelerate rising sea levels.
The ice shelf in question, named Filchner-Ronne, sits along the northwest coast of the continent and buttresses both West and East Antarctic ice sheets (it’s the sheets, which sit atop land, not the shelves, which affect sea level). Reuters reported that Filchner-Ronne is located “on the eastern side” of Antarctica, but that wasn’t its biggest mistake.
A paper published this week in the journal Nature describes how changing ocean currents could bring relatively warm water into contact with Filchner-Ronne’s underside, substantially increasing it melt rate. That could lead to a 20-fold increase in annual ice loss from the shelf by 2100—and accelerate flow from the ice sheets—but the paper does not say that the shelf will disappear by then.
How did Reuters come to that conclusion? The answer seems pretty clear.