He who lives by the crystal ball must expect occasional bits of ground glass in his pudding, and the false prophets of global warming and their cheerleaders in the media are learning that lesson the hard way. After years of predicting that man-made global warming would melt the planet’s glaciers and drown coastal towns beneath rising oceans, the threat itself is melting like ice in April. That’s cause for both celebration and a little humility in the face of the many mysteries of nature still to be unraveled.
Data from two NASA satellites, employed in the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment between 2002 and 2014, enabled researchers to analyze the effects of glacier loss. They found to their surprise that trillions of tons of water wound up not in the sea but spread across the planet’s land mass. In fact, 3.2 trillion tons of water, equal to the volume of Lake Huron, soaked into thirsty soil or were collected in lakes and underground aquifers.
“We always assumed that people’s increased reliance on groundwater for irrigation and consumption was resulting in a net transfer of water from the land to the ocean,” says the lead author, J.T. Reager. “What we didn’t realize until now is that over the past decade, changes in the global water cycle more than offset the losses that occurred from groundwater pumping — causing the land to act like a sponge, at least temporarily.” So dry land soaks up water. Who knew? It’s always reassuring when science comports with common sense.
As a result of this discovery, the space agency concludes that the rate of sea-level rise has diminished by 22 percent. Residents of oceanside cities, such as Venice, which has been battling flood damage to irreplaceable historic buildings, can drink a toast to terra firma.
Not all seaside dwellers are feeling the love. Some residents say they have been harmed more by bogus climate change predictions than by changes in the weather. In Wales, the village of Fairbourne is determined to sue the government over its fear-mongering Shoreline Management Plan 2.
Intimidated weather bureaucrats had forecast that the scenic village would be swept away by the rising ocean, and recommended that the village be “decommissioned.” Village dwellers argued that projections of sea-level increases had depressed nearby real estate values. Outlandish claims of inundation whet the prospects of only the fish.
Fears of catastrophic ice melt may be further eased by evidence that human-caused greenhouse gases have not prevented the Arctic ice sheet from expanding. The Danish Meteorological Institute reports that freezing seawater has iced over the widest northern covering in 10 years, reaching some 6.2 million square miles. Environmentalists who have fretted for years that polar bears would drown in the ice melt must search for a new object of compassionate conservationism.
The 21st century is an age for people in a hurry and everyone wants to get there, wherever “there” is, before anyone else. That’s why long-term climate predictions take on the immediacy of weather forecasts, and include some of the inaccuracies. Nature doesn’t follow earthly whims on Facebook nor monitor the traffic on Twitter, but operates on its own cycles of change. Some cycles are lengthier than others. Crunching data to discern past climate trends is solid science. Predictions, not so much. Venturing onto thin ice with a crystal ball is risky. No one should be surprised when the ice cracks, and scientists, pundits, ball and all, fall in.