back to article Glacier's hot butt melts ice, boffins say

Underground sources of geothermal heat have been named as one reason Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier is melting. Thwaites Glacier is a big contributor to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is thought to be in danger of collapse in part because glaciers aren't sending it as much ice as has previously been the case. If the whole …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    So the heat output under this glacier is 50% hotter than normally found elsewhere?

    And about 300% of normal in some spots? Am I reading that correctly? Sounds like an awful lot of thermal energy. How does that compare to active volcanic zones, like the Yellowstone Valley?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So the heat output under this glacier is 50% hotter than normally found elsewhere?

      I agree, I wish it had been put into context. Comparing it to Yellowstone, or downtown LA (i.e. near the LaBrea tar pits) would have been helpful.

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    No boom today

    No boom today, boom tomorrow...

    There will always be a boom tomorrow...


    Sorry, but someone just had to put things into perspective (if the geothermal zone is the size of the whole glacier it will be comparable to Yellowstone and when something that size goes boom...)

    1. davidp231

      Re: No boom today

      It won't just go boom... it will go BOOM.

      1. Gordon 10

        Re: No boom today

        Maybe it will implode due to weight of ice and go MOOB?

        mmmmm MOOB's.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No boom today

          Really? You like Man Boobs? Eeeewww!

      2. Mark 85

        Re: No boom today

        I think something that big will actually go KA-BOOM!!!!!!!

      3. Captain DaFt

        Re: No boom today

        "It won't just go boom... it will go BOOM."

        Here is the 'BOOM!' you're looking for:

    2. VinceH

      Re: No boom today

      Un upvote for a fun B5 moment. But you forgot this -->

  3. Tim Roberts 1

    I can just hear the GW deniers ....

    The article does not mention GW. It talks about OTHER heating factors that are affecting the glacier. So before you GW deniers say anything, RTFA. And, read beyond what is posted here at El Reg. Yes it's a good place to start, but there are plenty of sites that actually look at the data in a calm scientific way. Can science be wrong? Of course, that is one of the strengths of the Scientific Method.

    1. Scroticus Canis

      Re: I can just hear the GW deniers ....

      Shirley you mean AGW deniers? So would you be happier if the radar had produced images of humans stoking coal fired boilers under the icy wastelands of the glacier rather than natural geothermal heat?

    2. Grikath

      Re: I can just hear the GW deniers ....

      "So before you AGW deniers say anything..." FTFY

      I think you'll find preciously few people, especially among the ones with an education in fields and disciplines touching the subject, actually denying that our planet is warming up, and that this will have effects on a wide scale. You will find plenty that think the anthropogenic factor in this is currently mildly to wildly (ymmv) overrated in the models.

      But hey... torches and pitchforks for the Heretics all the way.

      1. g e

        Re: I can just hear the GW deniers ....

        Perhaps they'll get a snap of Elon Musk hollowing out volcanoes to build his flying/swimming car superfleet whilst maintaining a facade of greenwashed electro-propello-matrickery during the construction of his elite Moonraker fleet.

        At least, like Atheists, AGW deniers challengers can separate the bleeding obvious from the bleeding stupid.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can just hear the GW deniers ....

        @Grikath you know the AGW greens will say this is where the missing heat has gone and use it to say their models are correct - even if it is just natural.

      3. Robert Helpmann??

        Re: I can just hear the GW deniers ....

        I think the scientists should seriously consider that in this particular case they are dealing with a precursor to SGW (Shoggoth-caused Global Warming). That's right: they're under the ice, working their way out. We must enact some legislation to address this situation before it's too late.

    3. Frank Bough

      Re: I can just hear the GW deniers ....

      Wow, you AGW proponents are a paranoid bunch...

    4. stop islam in USA

      Re: I can just hear the GW deniers ....

      Tim I'm not a denier but I can read. Take a look here read it through and tell me it is all about CO2 and AGW.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can just hear the GW deniers ....

        Wow, how could the scientists not have known about Milankovitch cycles before. They must explain all climate changes for the life of the planet. This will rewrite the scientific literature. I will nominate you for the Nobel prize. Since you believe the contents of this paper are accurate: If the precessional changes can have such a big impact in Africa what do you think the impact of at least 4 times more change in energy in a much shorter time scale will have?

    5. Kumar2012

      Re: I can just hear the GW deniers ....

      There is science involved in the Church of well that's news to me...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can just hear the GW deniers ....

        @Kumar2012: Y'know, I have been reading comments to Register articles for about seven years now, and your insinuation that there's no science involved in the study of climate change, global warming, or whatever you want to call it may very well be the most willfully ignorant statement I've had the misfortune to run into in these forums.

        Agree with that science, disagree with it, or cite other science that contradicts it or supports it — on either side of the debate, by the way — but if not, simply STFU, you silly little man, and let the adults talk.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Well done

    For going out to get new measurements.

    Let's hope this temperature data is incorporated in models sooner rather than later.

    1. g e

      Re: Well done

      Just a shame that the IPCC scientific output is moderated by politicians before publication. (IIRC)

  5. dorsetknob

    Another well funded Research paper that states the ,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    And of Course the Green Eco Warriors will seize upon this to say

    " Look Irrefutable proof the earth is getting warmer and Antarctica is Melting"

    Its been known for years that the Antarctic has ACTIVE Volcano's some under the ice and some poking thru

    one Called " Mount Erebus " has been observed to be continuously active since 1972 and its a sulpher dioxide emitter (estimates of Millions of tons of this greenhouse gas are pumped into the atmosphere each year),

    It does not take a Apple genius to realize that if ice is heated it melts and if there is enough heat even Antarctic sub zero ice becomes water eventually and uncovers more land

    and whats the problem earth is going to need this new real estate to expand into to compensate for the sea level rise to house more population and to grow more food

    Icon well a volcano seems right

  6. codejunky Silver badge


    The paper doesn't mention anthropogenic global warming. Not even once. But of course it's already being used as “evidence” to rebut theories the West Antarctic Ice Sheet's instability is caused by human activity.

    That is probably known as tit for tat. Getting their own back. Returning the favour.

    What if its from below and not above? Maybe throw out some half baked ideas with little to support them apart from very selective 'facts'.

    As for the science, good catch and I wonder what actual results are expected from the geothermal activity.

  7. thexfile


    Lets not just except one paper. Verification from multiple teams will be needed.

    1. Steve Crook

      Re: Verification

      Agreed. However, we're talking about the degree of the effect, not if it exists. The paper isn't news because they've found geothermal heating, but because they've tried to quantify it, and according to their calculations, it's significant.

      As an earlier commenter pointed out, it would be good to see these effects accounted for in GCMs.

      So, the more we know, the more we know we don't know. That's science.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a revelation !

    So no Human activity for this underground earth heating? (Sorry, Anthropology/ist)

    Can we have our green taxes & billions in subsidies back please ?

    All backdated, off course.

    OR maybe, we can pipe all the heat/steam to where its needed the most and prices are high.

    See, another growth industry and area for investment. Whats not to like?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a revelation !

      Naw, the underground heating is there because Elon Musk was planning on doing a 'charity' exposition but didn't want his feet to get cold. He was quoted as saying "If it works for the cold tiles in my bathroom, why shouldn't it work in the antarctic?"

  9. Anonymous Blowhard

    Thwaites Glacier to be renamed Rihanna's Glacier

    'nuff said.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Volcanoes not people????

    Does this mean IPCC blew it again? And do icebergs in June on the great Lakes signify the Arctic ice-cap is melting, just like Himalayan glaciers?

    Back to the drawing board - new example of AGW needed - Maybe the consumption rate of ice-cream in London!

  11. Jim Birch

    Oh, dear...

    It appears that some people have just found out that geothermal heating is a factor in ice sheet dynamics. The disgraceful global community of glaciologist has been holding this information totally secret from the public to aid the Great Global Warming Science Taxation Conspiracy and Research Funds Scam. By restricting this information to obscure places like thousands of journal articles, glaciology courses and text books, IPCC reports, general articles on ice sheets, Wikipedia, and so on, a leakproof system to keep outsiders in the dark has been maintained.

    Why were we not told?

    Well, you glaciologist scum, the gig is up! Quake in your snowshoes! Truth has prevailed. Ha! Ha! Ha! I laugh as your Global Warming Fantasy collapses.

  12. Martin Budden

    Unwanted hyperbole from El Reg

    Lead author Dustin M Schroeder hopes his work eventually helps “radio geophysical exploration of icy planets”. One of which might come in handy if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapses, no matter the reason. ®

    Even if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet does collapse, even if it happens much faster than predicted/feared and is all gone in merely a couple of hundred years, we won't be needing a new planet as a result. We'll manage with slightly less land area than we have now. Yes millions of people will have to move house, yes lots of farming will have to be shifted to new locations, yes lots of infrastructure will have to be upgraded/replaced. But we'll manage.

  13. Faux Science Slayer

    "Earth's Missing Geothermal Flux" at FauxScienceSlayer

    In Jan 2013, Russian scientists finally drilled through 4,000 meters of ice at Lake Vostok in Antarctica, recording during the drilling, the lowest temperature on Earth of -89.2 C into a warm fresh water lake. Analysis of the lake water showed over 3,500 unique gene sequences, including multi celled life that has been isolated for at least 15 million years. See "Lake Vostok Bacteria" at Russia Today, July 2013.

    The Earth's mantle is not molten from residual, 4 billion year old heat, but from vastly underrated fission of the 2 million cubic miles of Uranium and Thorium in the mantle. Byproducts include heat and elemental atoms, which quickly form elemental molecules, see the Geonuclear tab at the FSS site. Lake Vostok is fed elemental water and nutrients, and most of the ground water on Earth did not seep down from the surface, but is instead forced up from below, see "Earth's Missing Geothermal Flux" at FSS.

    Since the Archimedes Principle of Buoyancy, in 212 BC logical humans have known that melting sea ice will NOT raise the sea level. Carbon climate forcing, 'sustainable' energy, 'peak' oil and big bang are all verifiable FRAUD components of our current false paradigm reality.

    Find and share is your duty as an Earthling.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems to be some muddled thinking in this report.

    "Thwaites Glacier is a big contributor to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet" - Thwaites Glacier is part of West Antarctic Ice Sheet. So I guess you could say it contributes to it but that's not the normal usage of the word. It seems that the normal usage of contributor is meant by the next bit; " [WAIS] which is thought to be in danger of collapse in part because glaciers aren't sending it as much ice as has previously been the case." Eh? Reference for this please. Recent papers have been published stating that some of the ice from the WAIS is now certain to flow into the sea. The major factor in that though is that the ice shelf (different to sheet) is retreating - most importantly the grounding line(s) are retreating which reduces the friction which normally holds the ice sheets back. The ice shelves are melting due to increased ocean temperatures reaching the ice.

    All this paper means is that scientists have predicted destruction of a large part of the WAIS based on assumed average basal melt. This paper suggests that the basal melting and therefore the lubrication of the movement of the ice is greater than currently used in the models. Cue a lot of predictions now including more ice being lost in shorter timescales.

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