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Sea level rise due to floating ice?

Posted on 28 September 2011 by MartinS

It is widely believed that melting of floating sea ice does not contribute to sea level rise. Is this really true?

Let us think of a simple experiment we are all familiar with: imagine an ice cube floating in a glass of water. What happens to the water level in the glass when the ice cube melts? Right, nothing happens. The ice cube displaces its own weight in the underlying water and the water level remains constant when the ice melts, because the melting process replaces the water which has already been displaced by the ice. This effect is known as Archimedes’ principle.

Now let us consider a slightly different experiment. It’s again water with some ice in it, but now the water is salty (like the real ocean). The blue color has no effect on the experiment, but it shows the ice cube in the water more clearly.


It took quite a time to melt all ice but finally it was done and the result is clear: The water level is higher!


Doesn’t that contradict Archimedes’ principle?

According to Noerdlinger and Brower (2007) it doesn’t because the principle refers to weight and not volume.  The salt in sea water raises its density from about 1000 kg/m3 for salt free water to 1026 kg/m3 for normal sea water. The ice however is nearly salt free because of a process called “brine rejection” (the salt from sea water doesn’t enter the crystal structure of ice).

When the ice melts then this is a kind of freshening of the ocean and the overall salinity is lowered. The lower salinity, the lower density  and the larger volume.

The melting of sea ice therefore doesn’t increase the mass but it increases the volume and therefore causes the water level to rise. After Noerdlinger’s and Brower’s calculations the volume of the meltwater is about 2.6% larger than the displaced sea water.

But what is the actual relevance of this effect? Does is contribute significantly to sea level rise? Before answering this questions we should deal with an objection raised by Jenkins and Holland (2007). They are arguing that a huge amount of energy is required to melt the ice. They find that the energy comes from the ocean, as the albedo (reflectivity) of ice is very high, it doesn’t absorb much solar energy. Hence the ocean will cool a bit, causing the density of the briny water to increase (It should be noted that fresh water exhibits the peculiar behavior that its density increases as the temperature falls almost all the way to freezing; but just before freezing, the density is reduced. Briny water does not exhibit that reversal). The cooling  therefore offsets the density decrease at least partially in the words of Jenkins and Holland.

As they put it, Noerdlinger’s and Bower’s result is a good first approximation in cold waters where most floating ice is found. The density of cold water is mainly determined by its salinity while for warmer water temperature is also an important factor. Therefore in warmer water the cooling effect matters.

Back to the question, if this effect contributes to sea level rise in a relevant way. Shepherd et al 2010 examine this. They combine satellite observations for an assessment of the loss of floating ice. According to this 743 km3/yr floating ice was lost in average between 1994 and 2004. They further conclude that 1.6% of current sea level rise (about 3.1 mm per year) is caused by loss of sea ice. This is not very much compared to other sources. However the authors assert that this effect should be considered for future assessments of global sea level rise.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 56:

  1. So Shepherd et al calculate (49 ± 8 μm yr−1) rise in mean sea level due to melting sea ice decreasing the salinity of the ocean and thereby reducing the specific density of the oceans.

    As long as we are looking at miniscule adjustments to sea level projections, has anybody ever looked at the slight decrease in sea level caused by salts being emptied into the oceans by rivers?

    The adjustment of 1/20th of a millimeter per year for sea ice melt is small, even compared to the approximate 0.3mm/year rise caused by the mining of water from ground aquifers or the approximate 0.4mm/yr reduction in rise caused by reservoir impoundment. (Ref: Church et al 2010, Revisiting the Earth's sea-level and energy budgets from 1961 to 2008)
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  2. CharlieA...

    You're right. This is a small effect...and the future impacts are limited by the amount of sea ice available for melting. I think it's just kind of a neat wrinkle to an old truism that says something about chemisrty/physics of the ocean. I'd think the more important effects of salinity changes from sea icea melting are related to the the local bouyancy effects of melting sea ice on currents and associated heat transfer.

    To get changes in salinity related to the hydrologic cycle you need to either increase the salinity of the incoming water (by increasing weathering) or alter the balance between river inflow and evaporation from the ocean. There is some evidence for increasing alkalinity (HCO3- and Ca++) of some major rivers (e.g. the mississippi). I'm guessing that does not affect salinity too much because of the dominance of NaCl as a solute. Haven't done the calcs though.

    As Rob painting has pointed out, there are some net movements of water between the ocean and land on multiyear timescales that could influence salinity a little. That must imply evaporative concentration of salts in the ocean. My guess is that accounts for only a small proportion of the recent sea-level rise anomaly though, but it would be interesting to know.
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  3. Heh one of the few things I remember from school was one of my teachers telling the class that global warming was a load of bollocks because melting ice couldn't raise sea level because it just displaced it's own mass in water. I don't know why that stuck in my mind, I think I speak for the rest of the class that I was rather indifferent to the content of his claim at the time, but I think I remembered it simply for the sudden way he delivered such a passionate claim in a lesson that had nothing to do with melting ice let alone global warming.

    Looking back on it I've always regarded his mistake was threefold: not taking into account melting ice on land, not taking into account thermal expansion of sea water and not taking into account that global warming is more than sea level rise. Now from reading this article I can add a fourth mistake.
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  4. Wingding your teacher had a serious case of Dunning-Kruger.
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  5. If Arctic sea ice melts, it reduces ocean salinity. How does this affect ocean penetration by warmer currents such as the Gulf Stream?
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  6. agnostic, the volume of the ocean is 1.3billion cubic km. The maximum volume of Arctic sea ice 20-30 years ago was just over 30thousand cubic km. This year's minimum sea ice is a mere 4.3 thousand cubic km where the 'long-term average' minimum was ~13 thousand. In terms of affecting ocean wide salinity the figure to worry about is the minimum - or not.

    Seeing as we've already lost more of the old minimum, 9,000, than now remains at minimum, 4,300, any salinity impact should be showing up.

    My best guess would be that any further impact on oceans would be local and transient, as well as being totally swamped by other heating impacts.
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  7. Within this closed system (Jar) the salinity of the water in the Jar would increase as the ice formed due to the salt leaching out of the ice. When the Ice melts it lowers the salinity of the water back to where it was in the first place. Bringing us back to square one. One needs an ever decreasing sea ice volume as in the real world for the example to work. With very little sea ice left in the Northern Hemisphere its addition to the rise in sea level is ever diminishing to 0.
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  8. I've been posting the following comment -- or variations thereon -- on several sites over the last week. I've not received much in the way of criticism (it seems to silence most people in denial). I'd be grateful for any constructive comments; and, in the light of MartinS' post, whether I should add any anything further.

    There's a point that those who just look at the rate of melting ice and say, "sea level rise is very slow, so why are we worrying?", fail to recognise.

    It requires a lot of energy to change the state of ice to water. That change, with no rise in temperature between the point at which water is solid, and then water is liquid, uses 80 times more energy than it does to raise the temperature of water between, say, two degrees and three degrees, or three degrees and four. Thus, currently, melting ice provides huge attenuation to the warming we experience. To melt, ice literally sucks heat out of the sea and thence the atmosphere and the land; delaying the worst effects of our actions. This is high school physics -- clearly way beyond the level of C.Booker, J. Delingpole and Co. Check it up. [Link provided to basic physics site].

    As a consequence, as the ice disappears, the massive amount of energy currently being used to melt ice becomes suddenly available to warm the ocean and the atmosphere -- warming which will then be at a rate 80 times faster than we're experiencing today. So the rate of melt accelerates the less ice remains. That's why extrapolating sea level rise from the current rate of melt is likely to produce a false sense of security.

    This is why scientists are so concerned. They understand this. Polar ice is the shock absorber on the suspension; the buffers on the carriages; the pendulum on the clock. And it's also the canary in the coal mine.

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    [DB] For all the reasons you mention, I refer to the Arctic Ocean sea ice cap as the Northern Hemisphere's refrigeration system.  That ice cap is being lost at record rates; once it is gone the thermostat will get ratcheted up.

    As for the rates of oceanic warming sans ice...that picture is complicated by issues with turbidity, mixing layers and changing currents all now relatively constrained by the ice cap.  We'll all be taking that journey together, so we'll see.

  9. >>>warming which will then be at a rate 80 times faster than we're experiencing today.

    I do not think that is necessarily true, as the ocean is not a perfectly thermally mixed medium, and also because not all of the heat that is transferred to the Arctic goes only toward melting sea ice.

    It would be very surprising and unrealistic if Arctic temperatures warmed at such a fast rate, we're talking about 0.3-0.4˚C/dec (at a minimum now) to 2-3˚C/year or more? I don't think so.
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  10. I should perhaps add that it was the Times' '15% Greenland ice loss' mistake that lead to my originally posting the comment. So I wasn't just referring to sea ice when I made the comment and I wasn't making -- what I thought at the time to be -- the very elementary mistake that melting sea ice raises sea level.

    Thanks for the comments so far and I look forward to any additions.
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  11. While this experiment works for multi-year sea ice, it will not for recently frozen sea water. It takes time (several years) for trapped brine to drain throught the ice. After several years (decades) of increasing sea ice, much of the brine has drained into the ocean, leaving a largely ice-free sheet of ice. As this has melted in recent years, it has contirbuted to sea level rise. The freshly frozen sea ice has a rather large concentration of brine. Roughly 75% of the sea ice melts and re-freezes each year. The melting of this ice will not inflence sea levels. Only melting of multi-year ice will have an effect.
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Please supply a verifiable reference to support that argument. As I understand it, the salts are never incorporated into the ice as the ice accumulates molecule by molecule on the underside/edges of the ice sheet, excluding the salts as it goes (as they don't fit well into the crystal structure).
  12. Dikran,

    see the following explanation.
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Cheers, much appreciated! Link activated.

    Having read the link, I suspect the overall salinity of the ice (with the brine inclusions) is still much lower than the sea water. What proportion of the ice sheet is made up of brine inclusions? I suspect it is fairly low. AFAICS there is nothing there to suggest that this is substantially alters the argument presented in this article, even for newly formed ice, unless there is some quantitative information available.
  13. is the sea level supposed to be static?
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] No. If you have a point to make, please do so directly, rather than asking rhetorical questions.

    Welcome to Skeptical Science! There is an immense amount of reference material discussed here and it can be a bit difficult at first to find an answer to your questions. That's why we recommend that Newcomers, Start Here and then learn The Big Picture.

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  14. Jonathan,

    Did you mean to say, "...leaving a largely salt-free sheet of ice", instead of "ice-free"?
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  15. Yes Martin,

    ice-free ice does not form often.


    I do not know if anyone has any quantative data on the salinity of the ice.

    As opposed to the experiment where the ice constitutes abot half the volume, over 99.9% of the water in the Arctic Ocean is present in the liquid state. The melting ice probably does not change the density by any measureable amount.
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  16. When sea ice forms it is a mixture of ice crystals and salt water. As the ice crystals link together and expand they squeeze the brine into pockets. The brine pockets end up being squeezed out along the bottom of the ice.

    Newly formed ice contains about 33% brine in pockets. The lateral pressures in the ice structure tend to squeeze these brine pockets into vertical structures. The ice continues to reject brine until the ice melts or until it contains insignificant quantities of brine.
    The initial brine rejection is the major driver of haline circulation, but further brine rejection is significant as the ice ages, e.g. in the Beaufort Gyre.

    These free resources may help readers to understand the processes of brine pocket formation and brine rejection:

    JPL poster

    Brine rejection... Vrbka and Jungwirth

    Arctic Sea Ice Microstructure
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  17. This is a two-parter.

    1 -- I recently thought about this sort of experiment and made the same mistake (of not realizing we were in a sense talking about two different liquids), so I see this as a timely article.

    One way to help see the effect more clearly is to assume the liquid bath is some super dense liquid. Approximately, that liquid is like a solid when you put the ice on top because almost no liquid is displaced, as only a tiny volume of it is needed to match the weight of the ice. The ice cube would basically just sit there almost entirely above the surface line. Once the ice melts, of course, almost all of that water will go to raise the level of liquid on the beaker, with the increase almost matching the entire volume of the ice.

    2 -- OK, with the on-topic material out of the way, I want to ask, has the Forster/Gregory 2006 paper discussed in this article or the article itself been analyzed on this site? The article is a critique of the IPCC and the peer review process.

    In that critique, the author (apparently someone practiced with statistical analysis) makes a fair (if subjective) point from a mathematical analysis point of view but appears to ignore the context of the data.

    To mention one side point that hints at the author's mentality, he attacks other climate studies that use models and data instead of just data. However, I think it makes lots of sense in many cases to prefer conclusions that take into account the result of models that have been proven to some degree over simply flying blindly with a limited data set. This is particularly important when the data set is of a rather short time period on the climate scale, deviates from historical averages, and so could not really make honest conclusions too far out into the future.

    The specific link I gave is to one of a few comments I made that gives my (amateur) interpretation. In short, it seems to me that the IPCC may have done the right thing if they were going to use the FG06 results. A normal distribution assumed around average slope values calculated from temp/flux global data points going back only a few decades (ie, the FG06 results for Y) can easily point in many directions and even potentially towards strong climate cooling, just as would be the case (to use an analogy) if we focus on a short-term Dow Jones Industrial hill (local maxima) near the top of that hill. The right thing to do to make future predictions using slopes based off a curve biased by short-term behavior is to place those average slope values in context. For example, we could rely on models based on physics and shown to have fair predictability over longer time spans. To continue with the stock market analogy, we'd want to use models and analysis that recognize that the DJI has always been headed upwards over the longer trend decades due to factors such as inflation of the currency upon which it is measured. Predicting long term off a local effect is bad.

    To conclude, that critique appears to be rather new and appears intended to make the IPCC look bad (dishonest or at least somewhat flawed). The author (Nic Lewis) assumes the results of FG06, the Y value, should be centered inside a normal PDF. I think that is wrong because the data is biased; thus, whatever the IPCC did to "skew" the S value PDF shown in the IPCC report, it was in effect adding context missing from the FG06 Y results.
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  18. Jose,

    If the IPCC did in in fact skew the results of FG06, then they should have reported such when using their results. Looing at the figure in the AR4 report, the curve is definitely skewed, while the original report argues for a Gaussian distribution. If they believed the data was biased, then the data should have been omitted instead of altered in the graph (that would be my choice, I would never alter anyone else's data).
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  19. There may be gravitational effects due to the mass of the sea ice.
    When the ice is formed then the local sea level will be higher in the arctic when the ice melts then this may cause a relative lowering of SL there and a corresponding further increase further away at distance.
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  20. Jonathon, I agree omitting that data is better than hiding some manipulation of it. If you can't explain it properly, then you should not try to sneak it in. However, as the criticism points out, there were sufficient clues and the citing to allow someone with experience to realize exactly what was done. It's a fail of sorts, but it doesn't appear dishonest. A few of the issues I wanted to raise were in questioning the perspective taken in that article that a normal distribution was acceptable (I don't believe it was) and that what the IPCC did, if explained sufficiently, was less than average and perhaps showed unwarranted bias (again I would disagree).
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  21. Jose,

    We are getting off topic, and the moderator is likely to step in and discontinue this discussion. Scientifically, a normal distribution is considered most probably unless a constraint is placed on one end (such as counts cannot be negative or exceed 100% of the population). Reading the report, I can see no reason why a normal distribution would not be acceptable. The article does indicate that the IPCC showed bias (actually the article was not that polite) in displaying a non-Gaussian distribution. A better reference would be something like based on- or derived from- the data...

    In your super dense liquid scenario, if we assume that the ice covers the entire surface area of the liquid, then the melting of the ice would raise the liquid level to same height as the liquid + solid starting height.
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  22. Jonathon, Jose, my understanding is that Forster was involved in the decisions of the IPCC, and that he disagrees with the interpretation in the cited article. In fact he states:

    "Firstly, Thanks for the interest in our paper and much useful discussion.

    I think the blog analysis is roughly correct, but I disagree completely with its interpretation. I disagree strongly that the IPCC authors were at fault for changing the priors and I disagree strongly that the uniform feedback prior is the best choice. Thirdly I disagree on the significance of all of this. I’ll deal with each in turn

    1) I was fully aware about the use of our data and the choice of priors by the ipcc. However, my paper was published so I didn’t need to approve of it’s use by IPCC, as it was is the public domain. In fact to keep the chapter as objective as possible I did not get involved in the assessment of my own paper and was happy to let my expert colleagues decide on it’s merit or otherwise.
    I also believe that the work put into assessing our paper by the IPCC authors is in fact a great testament of their professionalism. Rather than take our published numbers at face value, they looked very carefully at our paper and took the deliberative step, using their statistical and climate expertise, to modify our results to a uniform prior in sensitivity. They plainly state this in the report and are not trying to hide this. They also did this for sound science reasons based on the current literature at the time and acknowledge the problem of choosing the right prior in the chapter.

    Like Nic, I personally really like Non-GCM ways of estimating sensitivity, but I quite understand why IPCC didnt give it any more weight than any other study. The major problems with FG06 are the short time period of observations, regression errors and satellite data errors. This was again a perfectly sound example of expert assessment.

    2) Nic keeps mentioning OLS regression as the physics- based correct method, and that using this means that one should choose a uniform prior in feedback. If you read FG06 we infact spend a lot of time worrying about the choice of regression model. In the end we went for OLS, but this choice is not clearcut in complex systems where everything is interacting and isolating cause and effect becomes hard. All this means is that, as Annan Points out in his climatic change paper, the choice of prior isn’t an easy call and is very subjective. There is no one right answer for the best prior choice.

    3)My third point is that in the meantime, just as Fred Moolten points out above, the science moves on. The work by James Annan shows clearly the effects of different prior choices and that there is not one “correct” answer. Gregory and Forster 2008 and other papers show how high sensitivities don’t really make any difference to current climate change rate, as high sensitivities slow down the system response. Finally, we have repeated FG06 with updated observations from ERBE and CERES in Murphy et al. (2010), JGR D17107 and got a median climate sensitivity estimate much higher, around 3. 0 C. Note that the murphy paper quotes a feedback value of 1.25 watts per square metre per K. We deliberately did not invert for sensitivity as we are unclear how representative these values are for the longer term climate response."

    Clearly there is no issue here.

    What is an issue it your desire to pursue off topic comments in violation of the comments policy. Where I a moderator I would have simply deleted Jose's original comment in total. If you are so discourteous as to deliberately flout comments policy rules, you are owed zero extra effort by the moderators to ensure that your on topic comments stand. Is it really too much to ask that you seek out an appropriate thread for the discussion rather than try and divert discussion where it is not relevant? As it stands, I think it is certainly appropriate for the moderator to even now snip your original post and all responses (including this one).
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  23. That seems a curious position. If a comment is so off-topic, what possible incentive is there for anyone to pursue it? Am I being too naive here?
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  24. thorconstr - read and abide the comments policy.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Thorconstr - please carefully read the comment policy. Conformance in not optional. Note especially the section on sloganeering (making assertions without supporting evidence) and the prohibition on political statements. This a site to discuss science. There are plenty of other places for political rants.

  25. Floating ice (not a huge chunk leaning on the side of a jar) such as the polar ice cap, displaces the same amount of water as ice as it does as water, there is no change in level. Ice on land such as Antarctica and Greenland would affect sea level although given the land mass of Greenland the affect would be small and Antarctica with an average tempreature of -30 is not an issue. See the site below for a proper demonstration of melting ice and water level. See Archimedes principal as well.


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  26. thorconstr:

    You really should read through the papers hyperlinked in the OP before writing in a comment that appears to presume the simple experiment is the end of the matter - and ignoring the point made that the melting sea ice in salt water changes the salinity and temperature of the water, therefore changing its volume.

    Your claims regarding Greenland and the Antarctic appear to be purely arguments from ignorance. They are also off-topic, so if you want to pursue them further (with references) please look up appropriate threads to do so.

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  27. I pressume that a piece of ice supported by the side of a jar is not a good representation of floating ice. Antarctica and Greenland are not off topic because they represent ice that is supported as is the ice leaning on the side of the jar. This experiment is misleading. Can you comment without attacking?

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  28. thorconstr:

    The impression I get is that you are not reading the OP, or my comment, very carefully, if at all.

    The OP notes:

    Now let us consider a slightly different experiment. It’s again water with some ice in it, but now the water is salty (like the real ocean). The blue color has no effect on the experiment, but it shows the ice cube in the water more clearly.

    It took quite a time to melt all ice but finally it was done and the result is clear: The water level is higher!

    Doesn’t that contradict Archimedes’ principle?

    According to Noerdlinger and Brower (2007) it doesn’t because the principle refers to weight and not volume. [...][Emphasis mine.]

    When the ice melts then this is a kind of freshening of the ocean and the overall salinity is lowered. The lower salinity, the lower density and the larger volume.

    The melting of sea ice therefore doesn’t increase the mass but it increases the volume and therefore causes the water level to rise. After Noerdlinger’s and Brower’s calculations the volume of the meltwater is about 2.6% larger than the displaced sea water.

    Even though the OP explicitly notes Archimedes' principle, and explicitly notes that the principle does not take into account changes in salinity and temperature in ocean water from melting ice, and explicitly provides a reference discussing the phenomenon, you ignore it all and state:

    See Archimedes principal as well.

    as if somehow, despite having discussed the principle, the OP is somehow ignorant of it.

    You yourself specified that the Antarctic/Greenland ice was land ice:

    Ice on land such as Antarctica and Greenland would affect sea level

    As such your following comments were off topic. If you now wish to bring up floating ice shelves, that is indeed topical, although I do not see how bringing up floating ice shelves lends any support to your claims.

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  29. Thorconstr,

    The ice leaning on the side of the jar is only supported sideways, not up and down.  It has no effect on the experiment.  The setup of the jar makes the experiment easy to see.

    When I search "Greenland ice sheet sea level rise" the first hit is Wikipedia which states that the melting of Greenland will result in a 24 foot rise in sea level.  Since I live in Florida that seems like a lot to me since over half the state (home to over 10 millionj people) would be inundated.  Climate Central only goes up to 10 feet of rise so their maps are much too conservative.  I do not  know anyone who thinks this "affect would be small".  Perhaps if you look up data before you post you will seem less uninformed.  This thread is better for Greenland discussion

    Antarctia is melting from below due to the increase in ocean temperatures.  The fact that the average temperature is -30C does not matter when the bottom of the ice is melting due to heat in the ocean.  You are spending too much time reading skeptic blogs that do not know what the facts of the matter are.  This thread is good for Antarctia.

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  30. Just this morning I listened to this podcast of Chris Mooney interviewing Dr. Richard Alley. Really interesting discussion that brought out a number of points I was unaware of. One being that the gravitational mass of these major ice sheets also plays a role in sea level rise. The ice sheet are so massive that the exert gravitational pull on the ocean around them, thus as they melt, the reduced gravitational pull results in ocean's mass being more evenly distributed around the globe. Wow!

    The other one was, the summits of the major ice sheets are currently fairly high in altitude. As the ice sheets melt the lower altitude of the summits will mean they are in warmer air and thus have an amplified melting effect.

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  31. Michael, Why don't you do the experiment again with a piece of ice that floats without leaning on the side of the jar? Ice on land such as Antarctica and Greenland would affect sea level just as the friction of the ice leaning on the jar showed a wrong conclusion. Put a piece of ice in the jar, fill it completely to the top with water as in the you tube video and watch the outcome.

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  32. thorconstr...  Perhaps you should replicate the experiment with the modifications you're suggesting and see whether you get similar results. That would be the normal response.

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  33. thorconstr... Just remember, this experiment here is using ice in salt water, not fresh water. The video you linked to is not using salt water.

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  34. Thorconstr,

    The normal business in Science is for you to do the experiment over since it is you who challenges the result.  Since the result is backed by calculations and is the result I expected, it is a waste of my time to replicate a result that is exactly what I expected it to be.

    Skeptics have this expectation that any crazy idea they get has to be countered by scientists doing real experiments.  The onus is on the skeptics to actually do the experiment and proove that the accepted result is in error.

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  35. OK here you are. The solution is fresh water made to be salt water at 35,000 ppm of sea salt. The ice is fresh water, the pictures are at 30 minute intervals. There is no rise in the level when total melt is achieved. The paper towel is dry. Your result is exactly what you expected it to be because your ice was not in free float, it was leaning on the glass top and bottom. Try an honest experiment, I'm not impressed. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Accusations of dishonesty are a Comments Policy violation.  Please familiarize yourself with the Comments Policy and comport your comments with it.  Subsequent comments by you constructed thusly will be summarily deleted.

  36. I must congratulate thorconstr @35 for going ahead and carrying out the experiment.  Perhaps, however, he should look more closely at the photos.  Clearly in the bottom photo, showing the glass with ice cubes, the water level is slightly below the level of the lip of the glass.  In contrast, in the top photo, in which the ice has melted, the water level is slightly above the lip of the glass, being only held in by surface tension.  Contrary to his presumption, therefore, his experiment has merely confirmed the result discussed in the OP, and which he disputes.

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  37. There is the same amount of the lip of the glass showing above the water in all of the photos. However, you are going to see he results your agenda demands. I know the results, they were gotten honestly, not with trickery, I don't need to waste my time here.

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  38. thorconstr @37, to avoid the risk of seeing only "the results [my] agenda demands", as you put it, I asked my teenage daughter to assess the water levels without prompting as to what she should see, or what it signifies.  Oddly, she saw the same as me.

    Your refusal to acknowledge the evidence of your own eyes clearly demonstrates who has the agenda here.

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  39. thorconstr@37,

    I've seen the same as Tom@5. Further, honestly, I didn't even read the article (I was just lured by your beautiful pictures), so I wasn't encumbered by any thought process. That's already 2:1 against your "agenda" but I admit my observation could be inaccurate. So don't despair, together  we can learn something from your beatiful pictures by calculating what science tells us and comparing with what we've seen.

    So how about you tell us what was the water temperature (we already know the salinity, thanks) and the amount of ice? I assume the amount of water is ~250ml. Then I will calculate the theoretical dV/dh and we can compare it with what we've seen...

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  40. Incidentally, there is a well known trick that is often used in the classroom to demonstrate surface tension.  You fill a glass to the brim with water, and then float pins on the surface, and surface tension is enough to support the pin.  The pin still displaces water in accordance with Archimedes principle, but the water doesn't overflow the glass as the surface tension at the edge of the glass is surprisingly strong.  All that happens is that the meniscus rises slightly.  You can't get the meniscus that high by pouring the water into the glass because the drops don't drop in gently enough and the waves mean that the surface tension can be overcome.

    Now thorconst says that the meniscus hasn't changed, but you can't measure it accurately by eye.  Thorconsts response is a demonstration that (as usual) the skepticism of the skeptics is rather one sided, so the talk of an agenda is rather ironic.

    If he/she were really a skeptic they would repeat the experiment using a flask that wasn't filled to the brim and mark the bottom of the meniscus as martinS did as this is the only way that you can measure it accurately.  He/she would also use a larger ratio of ice to water to make the effect as large as possible to make it as easily measurable as possible (which he/she clearly didn't the first time, but MartinS quite sensibly did).  Lastly having a better intuition for physics might help, it is hard to see how much support vertical glass can have on melting ice (both notably slippery substances).

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  41. I find it amusing that you are sceptical about my experiment where the level remains constant from picture to picture, but a huge chink of ice leaning top and bottom against the container and not freely floating does not concern you. I have better things to do than cheat to prove a point. An now I'm going to do them. Adious.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Parlor tricks are rarely well received on this website.  

  42. thorconstr, why did you move the glass mid-experiment?  Also, are you going to answer chriskoz? 

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  43. The glass was never moved, the camera angle was different. No.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] While trying to rewrite Archimedes principles with poorly controlled experiments might be entertaining, I would ask all concerned to note from the original article.

    "They further conclude that 1.6% of current sea level rise (about 3.1 mm per year) is caused by loss of sea ice." (emphasis mine)

    and wonder if there are more important parts of the science to discuss?

  44. "the camera angle was different."

    The camera angle sucks. Why did you take the pictures at an angle that makes it so hard to see the level? The last picture is obviously much closer to horizontal than any of the others. Even with the poor camera angle, put me in the group that says the water level looks higher in the last picture.

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  45. [PS]@43,

    That's exactly what I was hoping to show @39 if thorconstr had given me the parameters needed to calculate the expected outcome. Depending of the results of the calculations, say if dh more than 0.5mm, then we would be able to confirm or bust this science. Otherwise (more likely IMO) we would conclude the experiment requires refining because it was impossible to tell. So the experiment would be useful & we would end up wiser.

    Sadly, Thor chose to decline my friendly and open minded invitation, instead accusing people of some imaginary "agenda" when they saw something he didn't like. Why so? This piece is AGW-neutral, therefore there should be no "controversy" here... All I can say is: that's typical behaviour of a science denier in general.

    As unimportant this piece in the big picture of climate science is, it shows the classic example of science denial represented by Thor here. I was hoping that Thor's experiment shows inquisitiveness of mind (I agree with the appraisal by Tom@36) but in the end, Thor disappointed me big time showing the attitude that has nothing to do with typical constructive skepticism, as his user name would suggest...

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  46. thorconstr wrote "I find it amusing that you are sceptical about my experiment where the level remains constant from picture to picture",

    The amusing thing is thorconstr utter lack of self-skepticism about his own experiment, which is sad because self-skepticim lies at the heart of science. 

    The level does not remain constant from picture to picture.  In the picture with the ice the meniscus is clearly concave around the rim of the glass, in the picture without the ice it looks to be convex around the rim.  The lack of a constant camera angle (poor scientific practice) makes it difficult to be absolutely sure of this.  Thorconst should reat his experiment properly, and use a glass with vertical sides, not fill it to the brim and mark the bottom of the meniscus as MartinS did as that is the only sensible way of performing the experiment.  Also thorconstr should use a larger ratio of ice to water to make any change in volume as large and easy to measure  as possible (as MartinS sensibly did).  Of course thorconstr wont actually do this, because there is a limit to most skeptics sckepticism - it doesn't extent to themselves.

    "but a huge chink of ice leaning top and bottom against the container and not freely floating does not concern you."

    I've asked this before thorconstr, but exactly how can a vertical glass wall support a block of melting ice, both substances notable for their slipperyness?

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  47. Despite the triviality of the topic, I'll have one more go.

    Suppose you have two large tubs of water at 0 degrees C, one containing a cubic meter of fresh water, and the second containing a cubic meter of sea water (salt content = 35 g per liter).  The density of the water in the first case is 999.868 Kg/m^3.  In the second it is 1028.131 Kg/m^3.  In both tubs you place half a cubic meter of ice, also at 0 degrees C.

    The first question I have for those doubting the science (such at thorconstr), is in which tub does the ice ride highest?  That is, in which tub is the greatest volume of ice above the level of the water?

    As it happens, the density of ice at 0 degrees C is 916.2 Kg/m^3.  Hence 0.5 cubic meters of ice has a mass of 458.1 Kg.  By Archimedes Principle, we know that the weight of the displaced water equals the weight of the floating object.  Thus the block of ice will displace 458.1 Kg of sea water, and the same mass of fresh water.  Because of their different densities, however, that means it will displace 0.458 m^3 of fresh water, but only  0.446 m^3 of sea water.  That is, the ice in fresh water ill have only 0.042 m^3 above the surface, but 0.044 m^3 above the surface if floating in fresh water.  It floats higher in sea water.

    We can carry that one step further.  If the ice melts it will occupy a volume of 0.458 m^3.  That is, it will occupy the same volume as was displaced by it in fresh water, but 0.002 m^2 more volume than it displaced in sea water.  That excess volume must result in a rise in the water level.  To deny that fact requires us to insist that the displacement of a body is the same regardless of the density of the fluid in which it floats.

    The science involved in this case is not that difficult.  It is as simple as realizing that ice will float higher in a denser fluid.  It is even simple enough to be taught in high school chemistry (in the UK).  The problem is that having got a fixed and inaccurate view of that Archimede's Principle states, thorconstr's mind is not open to subtleties that follow from the actual principle.

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  48. "I've asked this before thorconstr, but exactly how can a vertical glass wall support a block of melting ice, both substances notable for their slipperyness?"

    I can't believe you ask this, no matter what the surface, when things rub they cause friction which would affect the experiment. My background is as a high voltage lineman 15 years, high end home builder 18 years, private pilot, and building high end cars for fun. I don't profess to be a scientist, I do have a lot of "real world" knowledge. Everyone here accepted the first experiment without question, the experiment is far from professional yet you accept it like the "Holy Grail", not a negative response, and you all have problems with mine. Mine wasn't intended as a professional experiment. If I found that I was wrong I would have said so. If I blow the pictures up to show only the glass rim the water level is the same, whether you believe it or not. In retrospect, posting on a such a totally left leaning sight was a mistake. And I unlike most on this site do have an "open mind".<Snip>

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Commentators have pointed out problems with your experiment and reasonable improvements, as well as detailed explanations of the principle at work here (Tom). Responding to these comments would be better than throwing insults. Your conjecture that no rise in water level is what is expected overthrows a few thousand years of knowledge so the onus lies with you.

  49. thorconstr @48, what I (and I suspect nearly everyone) accepted was not the "first experiment", but the analysis based on a detailed knowledge of the relevant scientific principles and values by two experts in the field as detailed in the paper found by following the first link in the article.  Some of us may also have done analyses similar to mine @47 to test that the result genuinely followed from known scientific principles (or used an alternate method based on calculating the new salt concentration after melting of the ice, and determining the difference in density that results).  I (and I suspect nearly everyone) considered the illustrations to be merely a usefull illustration, not explained in sufficient detail for anything but illustrative purposes.

    Your "experiment", in contrast, lacks relevant details, is poorly constructed and gives results constrary to what you claim.  It is certainly an inadequate basis for over turning a basic scientific principle (which is what you are attempting to do, though you do not recognize the fact).

    <snip> I am only interested in one response from you.  Does ice floating in sea water float higher, lower, or the same as ice floating in fresh water? 

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] A reasoned debate is more likely without implied derogatory observations. This applies to everyone.

  50. thorconstr wrote "I can't believe you ask this, no matter what the surface, when things rub they cause friction which would affect the experiment."

    O.K. so the question is how much friction would there be, and would it be enough to materially affect the outcome of the experiment.  I would say that the friction involved would be negligible as ice and glass, both lubricated by a film of water,  are both extremely slippery materials. Note that as the ice is melting there won't be much of a connection between the solid surfaces as the surface of the ice will be constantly melting.  Note the reason that ice skating is possible is that a thin film of water removes what little friction there was between the ice and the blade of the skate.

    "Everyone here accepted the first experiment without question, the experiment is far from professional yet you accept it like the "Holy Grail", "

    This is hyperbole.  It is a simple experiment that verifies something we already know from very basic theory (as Tom pointed out to you).  If you get the science right, you don't need this sort of rhetoric.

    "Mine wasn't intended as a professional experiment."

    neither was MartinS's, I suspect, and yet you chose to question the honesty of his experiment, when it was actually performed rather more professionally than yours - at least the meniscus could be measured properly in his.

    " If I found that I was wrong I would have said so. "

    We try running the experiment again, using the suggestions I gave.

    "If I blow the pictures up to show only the glass rim the water level is the same, whether you believe it or not."

    How many times do I have to say that you can't accurately measure the meniscus this way by eye.  Blowing up the pictures doesn't change this fact.

    "In retrospect, posting on a such a totally left leaning sight was a mistake."

    Physics is independent of political orientation.  Try doing the experiment properly.


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