Yes, please try this at home!

It’s amazing the confusion that accompanies climate change questions. That’s partly because it is a complex subject. So it’s not surprising that people can make glaring mistakes.

Here’s one, though, that’s easy to get your head around by a simple experiment you can do at home. It relates to the question of melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. David Attenborough covered this in the last episode of “The Frozen Planet” screened here recently. His point – that global warming could cause loss of this land ice into the sea leading to dramatic increases in sea level.

Of course, this gets denied by the climate change deniers.  I came across one recently who suggested an experiment to prove Attenborough wrong:

” I can only suggest that every one do the following experiment. Take one half glass of water. Add two or three ice cubes. On the outside of the glass mark the level of the water. Leave for a few hours until the ice has melted entirely. Note the water level compared with the mark.”

Well, yes. Think about it – look at the image. Melting those ice cubes is not going to make much difference to the water level is it? Most of their volume is already under water and there already contributing to the water level.

This is why melting of floating icebergs due to global warming will have a relatively small effect.

But that’s not what Attenborough was talking about.

His comments related to movement of ice from the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica into the sea. Partly from melting. But also from sliding of the ice sheet in Greenland as the water melt lubricates the ice/rock junction. And in Antarctica the fear is that warmer sea temperatures will diminish the effect of pack ice restraining glacier ice from moving into the sea. In both cases the problem arises from addition of land ice to the sea.

So here’s the proper experiment:

Take one half glass of water. On the outside of the glass mark the level of the water. Now add your three ice cubes. Leave for a few hours until the ice has melted entirely. Note the water level compared with the mark.”

Or even quicker.

Note the water level immediately after addition of the ice cubes!

Think about it! Try it at home.


Footnote: Much of the research on mechanisms of movement of these land ice sheets into the sea is relatively new. many of the current findings were jsut not available during preparation of the 1987 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.  Consequently the concern is that the effects of climate warming may be greater than estimated by that review.

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21 responses to “Yes, please try this at home!

  1. What warmer sea temperatures are we talking about?
    And why is the average sea level now dropping?

    Like

  2. Did you see the poor Americans get… Alec Baldwin as the narrator? Man how I laughed. And they don’t even know how badly they’re getting cheated.

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  3. Richard Christie

    Sea levels have been generally stable over the past few years

    Please do go on Ross, share your understanding of

    1) “generally stable ”
    2) “past few years”

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  4. Adding a quantity x to an existing quantity y of the same compound in a container increases the volume of that compound in the given container

    Why do we need to perform an experiment to deduce this?

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  5. Yes Ross, do go on. Tell us how you discovered that the scientists are lying to you. Don’t forget to give the details of your research.

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  6. Yes, Andy, it seems obvious. But the local climate change denier suggested the first “experiment” to “prove” Attenborough wrong,

    I am simply correcting his mistake.

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  7. Richard Christie

    Why do we need to perform an experiment to deduce this?

    Because the science denier that Ken referred to is either too dim to understand Archimedes’ principle or is being deliberately disingenuous, my money would be on the later.

    Like

  8. Challenging Lazy Thinking

    Brings back happy memories of physics at school and doing Archimedes principle.
    In a recent trip to the Mount Cook area, I had chance to get up close to the glaciers, they are certainly a natural wonder. What was disconcerting was the amount of melt occurring in the last 100 hundred years. I am aware that other factors can influence glacial regression or advancement; however there is a huge amount of land locked water in ice and common sense would imply that water has to eventually make it to the sea, by one means or another!
    Also the impact of too much cold water entering the ocean current system and the very real threat to altering the fine balance of circulation between the warm and cold currents and the ‘conveyor’ system. Very worrying!!
    Quite right to point out this flaw…………many people dropped physics under the old education system to pick other subjects and have missed out…….even smart people can be tricked by a seemingly plausible argument.

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  9. …however there is a huge amount of land locked water in ice and common sense would imply that water has to eventually make it to the sea, by one means or another!

    Nah. Invisible-Magic-Man-Up-In-The-Sky would not allow it.
    You and your fancy pants sciency stuff is all just a “hard left Marxist” plot.
    Ooogity Boogity.

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  10. Richard Christie: “Because the science denier that Ken referred to is either too dim to understand Archimedes’ principle or is being deliberately disingenuous, my money would be on the latter.”

    The science denier isn’t too dim to understand Archimedes principle, he thinks the world’s climate scientists are too dim to understand Archimedes principle. How he manages to believe that I have no idea.

    Or he’s being disingenuous.

    Like

  11. Richard Christie

    Mark I vote that we ought to dispense with the charity and just go with the alternative we hold in common, that he’s being disingenuous.

    Like

  12. Challenging Lazy Thinking

    Hey Cedric,
    Speaking of …..Hard left Marxists
    True story now….my dad was on holiday back in the late 80’s in the good old US of A and having a beer in a bar, where he struck up conversation with some locals and made the mistake of slightly criticising conservative policy…..not the US policy, just his home country the UK. The guy opposite him without any compunction asked in all seriousness whether or not my dad was a communist!!!! My Dad nearly fell of his chair, who is by any reasonable standards middle of the road moderate in his views, but by their standards he’s a lefty.

    The world needs to truly worry if the Republican brigade get behind the desk in the Oval office!! Yeah arh…..what climate problem, now the ice has melted in the artic it will be cost effective to start drilling & get building V8s again……see God finds a way to help those in need…..its part of the big plan!!!!

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  13. Richard, I see your point, but…

    I recall reading in a newspaper article several years ago that Augie Auer had cited the ice-cubes-in-a-glass thought experiment in front of a group of farmers to prove…that the IPCC was somehow wrong, I suppose. I knew Augie personally & professionally, though not very well, and he didn’t strike me as the disingenuous sort. So did he really believe that climate scientists didn’t understand the consequences of Archimedes Principle? I have no idea. I’m just puzzled.

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  14. I can well believe it. We’ve had people appear on this very blog who bluntly state that all of Europe (in the 21st Century, mind you) is in the thrall of “the Commies”.
    These are people not well tuned to reality.

    Like

  15. Ah, I see that another one has pooped out of the woodwork. Palmer has officially embraced kookdom.

    Nice to see an official response.

    Like

  16. Richard Christie

    While we’re on subject of kooks, Gareth at Hot Topic alerts to M’lud’s new website, The Lord Monckton Foundation.

    http://lordmoncktonfoundation.com/home

    The site’s vision statement is a real hoot.

    The Lord Monckton Foundation stands as the wall of the West, the redoubt of reason, the sentinel of science, the fortress of freedom, and the defender of democracy. By this Charter, the Governing Council is directed to obtain and to deploy whatever resources may be necessary for the energetic furtherance of the ambitions and activities of the Foundation, which shall conduct research, publish papers, educate students and the public and take every measure that may be necessary to restore the primacy and use of reason in science and public policy worldwide, especially insofar as they may bear upon the rights of the people fairly and fully to be informed, openly and freely to debate, and secretly by ballot to decide who shall govern them, what laws they shall live by and what imposts they shall endure.
    It was neither accident nor coincidence that the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment and Reason was also the dawn of the West. The Scientific Method, first adumbrated in the early Middle Ages as a moral as well as a rational discipline by the Iraqi mathematician Abu Ali Ibn Al-Haytham, who had beautifully spoken of scientists as Seekers after Truth, attained its apotheosis in the minds of Newton, who acknowledged that he stood upon the shoulders of giants; of Huxley, who held that scepticism is the highest duty of the improver of natural knowledge; and of Popper, who said that good tests kill flawed theories. The politicization and perversion of objective science, and especially of climate science, are a menace to the West and to the world.
    With the British Empire, governance became truly global for the first time. The world, said the philosopher Santayana, never had sweeter masters. Today, notwithstanding the sunset of that first global Empire, the tendency towards global governance is gathering both momentum and permanence through entities such as the United Nations, the Organization on Economic Cooperation and Development and the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the latest and crudest pretext for necessary tyranny.
    Not one of the multiplying and expanding institutions of supranational and now global governance is truly a democracy. Only at the level of the nation-state – and even then by no means universally – is government of the people, by the people and for the people the happy custom. Therefore, however necessary it be that nations should collaborate and cooperate in matters of common concern, every cession of sovereignty from a nation to a supranational or global entity at present entails a real transfer of legislative and increasingly of fiscal power from elected to unelected hands – both legislation and taxation without representation.
    Is science dead? Must reason fail? Shall objectivity be slaughtered again on the pagan altar of mere ideology? Is life now objectionable, liberty deplorable, the pursuit of happiness a crime? Has the nation had its day? Is the globalization of governance really a public good? Can democracy survive it? Should not the use of the ballot-box be extended? Should not every supranational and global institution of governance be elected? The Foundation exists to illuminate questions such as these, and to inspire devotion to the cause of Western civilization, true reason, sound science, universal liberty and worldwide democracy in the hearts of all men of goodwill. Let freedom ring!

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  17. Bloody hell. With such purple prose this guy should go into politics.

    Oh, I forgot. He already has. Absolutely bombed out at the last election.

    Still – he is good for a laugh.

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  18. The Lord Monckton Foundation stands as the wall of the West, the redoubt of reason, the sentinel of science, the fortress of freedom, and the defender of democracy.

    How modest.

    Like

  19. I knew Augie personally & professionally, though not very well, and he didn’t strike me as the disingenuous sort. So did he really believe that climate scientists didn’t understand the consequences of Archimedes Principle? I have no idea.

    Like

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