A lecture on the WAIS

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, July 5th, 2009 - 12 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

There are a few odd times that I wish I was living in Wellington instead of Auckland (not often).This is one of them.

There is a lecture by one of the leading researchers looking at the geology of the West Antarctica ice sheet (WAIS) and the critical medium-term effects of climate change.

Tim Naish says new evidence shows that changes to Antarctica’s most vulnerable element, the West Antarctic ice sheet, could raise global sea levels by up to five metres.

The Director of Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre will present this new evidence at his inaugural professorial lecture on Tuesday 7 July at Victoria University.

I have written on previously how important the WAIS is in An idiots* guide to what happens when the CO2 affects the WAIS. Professor Naish points out the critical aspect in the climate change that many skeptics appear to have a problem understanding (my italics)

‘Polar ice sheets have grown and collapsed at least 40 times over the past five million years, causing major sea-level fluctuations. The most recent ‘interglacial’ has lasted 10,000 years, during which time global sea-level and atmospheric temperatures have remained more or less constant, and human civilisation has flourished.’

The risk levels to human civilisation involved in disturbing that benign climate balance pose a major problem over the next century. I’m a skeptic about humans being able to avoid a large scale die-back in population if they manage to trigger a change in climate. A new climate equilibrium is going to be a lot less benign for our painfully garnered technologies like farming.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh says Professor Naish is an outstanding researcher, teacher and leader in the field of Antarctic research.

‘Professor Naish’s Antarctic research has raised international awareness about the role of Antarctic ice sheets in climate and sea-level change. Through the ANDRILL project in particular, he has provided leadership on an issue that is of global significance.’

I’d urge people to go to attend. It will be extremely interesting getting the information from an expert in the field. Perhaps a few of our politicians, especially those on the select committee on the ETS, could go and expand their knowlege of down stream effects.

The public lecture is at 6pm in the Hunter Building, Lecture Theatre 323, Gate 1 or 2 Kelburn Parade on Tuesday 7 July. To RSVP, email rsvp@vuw.ac.nz with ‘Naish’ in the subject line.

It’d be great if Victoria University could get this lecture up on the net for those of us lucky enough not to live on a major fault line.

12 comments on “A lecture on the WAIS”

  1. roger nome 1

    This is just alarmism. Everybody knows that the American Association of oil barons are right and everyone else is wrong? My understanding is that so called “global warming” is just a global conspiracy that’s been whipped up by the comunust liberal media (this guy for example)

    and the global comunust peer-reviewed science journals?

    I’m sure redbaiter and MacDoc can give us a more sophisticated look at the conspiracy than i can though … guys, a bit of help here?

  2. RedLogix 2

    Will be there. I’ll try and knock up a post if not all of the Prof’s material goes whistling overhead.

  3. lprent 3

    Thanks.. .

    Sounds like Nevil Gibson, the editor at the NBR should go as well. He wrote a particularly stupid editorial last week. Not understanding the science is no excuse for being a credulous fool. Time to worry: NBR editor lacks insight on climate change.

    Looks like he believes number of non-scientific paper lines rather asking scientists themselves.

    • Anita 3.1

      The comment to which this is a reply appears blank in the RSS feed.

      • lprent 3.1.1

        RL’s comment? Umm that’s odd. Adds to bug list.

        The other nice thing about Peters anti-spam though is that not only does it allow me to respond from my iPhone, I’ve also just found that it also allows me to respond from my severely locked down work system…….

        And I just got a quote string – that is definitely the problem. Will fix now. Time for a break anyway.

        • Anita 3.1.1.1

          Your comment from 2:48pm is blank in the RSS feed. I read off RSS most of the time and it’s the only blank I’ve seen.

          P.S. The fact that edit works on my own comments in the RSS feed is pretty cool 🙂

          • lprent 3.1.1.1.1

            Yeah. This is a nice (if somewhat ugly) system. I haven’t seen a noticeable increase in the spambots getting through to akismet. Looks like it is doing its job.

            I turned off the speaking version mainly to get rid of the extra comment. Will turn back on if anyone desperately needs it.

  4. djp 4


    Polar ice sheets have grown and collapsed at least 40 times over the past five million years, causing major sea-level fluctuations.

    This could undermine the anthropogenic argument

    ps. New capcha is easier to read thx

    • lprent 4.1

      Except that this particular rise in C02 levels has the isotropic signature of released coal and oil rather than the volcanic gas emissions that appear to have triggered previous changes. It is also a *lot* faster than previous changes according to the ice cores. etc etc… Read http://realclimate.org or http://www.hottopic.com (or sites linked from there) if you want a readable version of the research.

      However the geology of previous eras tells us roughly what happens when greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere. Ice melts, sea levels rise, the climate changes over wide areas with changing rain and wind patterns, sea currents turn on and off, deserts shift, even possible northern glaciations, etc. The exact effects are unpredictable when you’re looking back over 10’s of thousands or millions of years.

      The only thing that you can be sure about is that human civilization will suffer intensely. It evolved for and during relatively stable climatic conditions (geologically speaking). Climate changes that can be withstood by hunter-gathers are likely to be lethal for complex civilizations. Do you want to take the risks to have an RV?

    • Pascal's bookie 4.2

      This could undermine the anthropogenic argument

      I love this shit.

      Hey, look at this! If you pump out these gases into the atmosphere everything we know about climatology says the temp should rise

      Oh yeah? So?

      So those are the gases we’ve been pumping out.

      Well the temperature isn’t rising so your *theory* is for shit.

      Yeah well there’s feedback loops and buffers and stuff. It’s a complicated business, but in any case, those buffers can’t handle what we are throwing at them and eventually things’ll have to pop somewhere. It’s fucking physics.

      Pffft. Nah you’re full of it. Come back to me when the temp starts rising.

      dum-de-doo, dum-de-doo

      Hi. the temps are totally rising. Look at this graph. It’s a zigzag heading up.

      Yeah but we’re going down at the moment. You’re such a liar, that’s the total opposite of what you said!

      Look smarter. Like I said, it zigzags, but if you smooth out those zigzags it’s heading up. Just like we expected. And it’s physics. There’s a problem here. We should really start pumping less of this shit into the atmosphere.

      Why? Even if we are getting hotter, hotter’s good, and you can’t prove it’s these gases you’re so concerned about.

      A little bit hotter overall can make life really unpleasant in the places humans actually fucking live, and every time these gases have been more prevalent, the temp has risen. We’ve been checking it out.

      So it’s happened before then?

      Yep. Here’s the graphs and data. It’s definitely happened before, lots of times. These gases that we are pumping out cause the temp to rise.

      Ha ha. That data says it happened before humans had even evolved, therefore it can’t be us. Or did we send back our gases in a time machine? What a loon. ha ha.

      Er, it’s the gases, not the people. The gases can be released in any number of ways, none of them good, some of them though, preventable. Which would be ‘the point’.

      So how can you say that it’s us that’s releasing the gases?

      Had a suck on your tailpipe lately?

      You’re really uncivil, you know that?

      Don’t get me fucking started.

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