Much has been made of the possibilities of the polar ice caps melting due to "global warming", and the consequences (dramatic rise in sea levels, coastal flooding, millions of people displaced) have been described in dramatic detail as a rationale for taking "action". However, an engineer recently looked into the possibilities of the caps actually melting at The American Thinker (as claimed by a certain former vice president) and found the math involved....rather fuzzy.
As the engineer, Jason Schmidt puts it:
"Al Gore's claim that ocean levels will rise 20 feet thanks to global warming seems to ignore the laws of thermodynamics. I am no climatologist, but I do know about physics. Anyone who has ever spent time in a temperate climate following a snowy winter realizes that when the air temperature rises above 32°F the snow and ice do not melt immediately. We may experience many balmy early spring days with temperatures well above freezing while snow drifts slowly melt over days or weeks. Similarly, lakes and ponds take some time to freeze even days or weeks after the air temperature has plunged below zero. This is due to the latent heat of freezing/melting of water, a physical concept long quantified in thermodynamics.
That aspect of basic physics seems to have been overlooked by climatologists in their alarming claims of dramatic and rapid sea-level rise due to melting of the Antarctic ice caps and Greenland glaciers. But of course, we have learned that models predicting global warming also failed to take account of precipitation, so overlooking important factors ("inconvenient truths") should not cause much surprise anymore. The scientific data necessary to calculate the amount of heat necessary to melt enough ice to raise ocean levels 20 feet is readily available on the internet, and the calculations needed to see if polar cap melting passes the laugh test are surprisingly simple. Nothing beyond multiplication and division, and because we will use metric measures for simplicity's sake, much of the multiplying is by ten or a factor of ten."
He then goes about to step us throught the math involved in both raising the atmoshperic temperature of the Earth 5 degrees centigrade and the math involved in heating the ice caps to melt, and finds a rather large discrepancy.
"Heat needed to raise the temp of the atmosphere 5° C:
~2.5 x 10 to the 19th power kJ (kilojoules)
Heat necessary to melt ice to achieve 20-foot sea-level rise
~7.4 x 10 to the 21st power kJ
There is a difference of 300* between these two figures. Even if I am wrong by an order of magnitude, there is still an enormous difference. This does NOT mean that ice caps have not melted in the distant past nor that ice-age glaciers have not grown to cover much of the northern hemisphere; it simply means that the time scales involved to move sufficient quantities of heat to effect such melting or freezing occur over what we scientists commonly call "geological" time scales, i.e. hundreds of thousands and millions of years.
Even if sufficient heat is trapped in the atmosphere to raise it the maximum value predicted by anthropogenic "global warming" alarmists (5°C) over the next 100 years, hundreds of times more heat energy must be imparted into the ice-caps to melt sufficient ice to raise sea-levels the catastrophic levels prophesied by Al Gore.
I humbly submit that this might constitute a flaw in his equations."