Slip-sliding away

One hears much about the diminishing ice caps on Greenland. At least this one does. Too, though less often, about calving ice sheets in Antarctica, though seldom with the qualification that the overall ice-cover on and around that continent is increasing. All very well, I enjoy science, and will read the report if there is any prospect of science in it, as distinct from more lipstick being wasted on the same old pig. I despise scientism, warmly — the pretence of science, dressed in high-priestly labcoat robes, in pursuit of an essentially theocratic power; or, “settled science,” as its adepts call it.

Here is an example of science. It is about those ice caps on Greenland which, I believe short of “faith,” are actually receding — especially along the north-east coast, where glaciers most copiously slide into the ocean. The plausible assumption of those whose livings depend on climate alarmism, is that “global warming” has been melting them down, from above, on the broiler principle. But as overall global and regional atmospheric temperatures have been remarkably stable, and there is no evidence of melting from the top, might one guess that they are melting from below?

Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, working from this hunch, and a knowledge of geomorphology, took it upon themselves to measure water temperatures at the bottom of fjords in north-east Greenland, where hot springs like those in Iceland have been discerned. Sure enough, they found, over a ten-year study, that waters more than a hundred fathoms down were consistently and significantly warmer than what conventional calculations would expect. The explanation is obvious. It’s that hot spot thing. Heat from the interior of the Earth is rising.

Put a chunk of ice in a pan on your stovetop. Turn up the heat and notice what happens. The ice melts, from below. This will happen no matter how cold your kitchen is.

It is good sometimes to do actual experiments, to test a hunch. It was in the twelfth century, in the West, that we first tried acting on this hunch of hunches. Even Aristotle got some things wrong, as we discovered, over the next five centuries. We celebrate the “scientific revolution” of the seventeenth century, which was quite impressive, but as Pierre Duhem and others established, the fruit sprang from a tree with historical roots much deeper. Modern science was not a rejection of, or departure from, mediaeval science. It was rather the natural outgrowth from it.

There could of course be other contributing causes, but what struck me and others about the ice cap reports is that they were geographically concentrated, in fairly remote places. One would expect, if “global warming” were true, that the melting would be quickest in the south, slower northward. And as the south of Greenland is rather more accessible, one would anyway expect the anecdotal evidence to be richest there. But no.

Marvellous things can be discovered, through empirical science, when researchers are looking for some particular thing. I will not say it rewards the open-minded. The hunch precedes the demonstration. An “open” mind is an empty mind: it has nothing to look for. An honest mind is more to the point.