Ice Sheets Calve, Get Used To It
In early April 2009 a large portion of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica broke away. And Jennifer Marohasy, at http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2009/04/wilkins-ice-shelf-collapse/#comments was moved to ask;
The reason they calve is that the annual precipitation on the Antarctic coast is over 200mm a year, or 2 metres per decade, or 10 metres every half century. If the ice sheet was not attached to land based ice, and water temperatures remained below zero C, then the floating sheet would drop by 9 metres every half century as the total ice mass adjusts equilibrium in water.
But when the ice sheet is attached to land ice it cannot adjust it's mass in water (sink) without severing the attachment to the land ice. Ten metres of ice weighs 9 tonnes per square metre, 90,000 tonnes per hectare and 9 million tonnes per square kilometre. And that makes for an absolute $hitload of weight to be defying gravity with.
And the wider the ice shelf is, the more powerful the leverage becomes at the interface between land and shelf ice.
Interestingly, ocean surface temperatures for this area in March 2009 were zero C. Below the surface, at the bottom of the floating ice, the temperature was lower still. And if the break had taken place in January there may have been a very slim case in support of warming as the cause of the calving. But Southern Hemisphere temperatures have declined over the past decade to a greater extent than Northern Hemisphere temperatures.
So how can the Wilkins Ice Shelf calving be caused by global warming when there has been no warming for the past ten years?"