Figure 1  3D view of a recently developed surface fracture in a portion of Antarctica’s Pine Island
Glacier just prior to breaking away and floating out into the Arctic Ocean / Amundsen Sea.


Contrary to alarmist media reports claiming global warming is causing West Antarctica’s glaciers to collapse into the ocean, recent fracturing and break-up of these glaciers is actually a natural phenomenon caused by deep earth geological heat flow. This article will provide the reader with a comprehensive explanation about the current fracturing / break-up of a portion of Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier by including pertinent geological information and just-released research by the British Arctic Survey.

Let’s begin by discussing the pertinent geological information. West Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier lies directly above the unprecedented 5,000-mile-long heat-emitting West Antarctic Fault / Rift System (Figure 2).  Evidence supporting high geological heat and heated fluid from this rift / fault system flowing upwards and onto the overlying West Antarctic Glaciers is very compelling:

  •  fluid flow from the fault / rift zone unto the overlying base of many West Antarctica glaciers have acted to create a sub-glacial and active 2000-mile-long by 1000-mile-wide interconnected liquid flowing system of streams and lakes (see here).
  • Numerous research studies, most notably one by the University of Texas, show there is significant deep earth high geothermal heat flow in the West Antarctic region associated with the West Segment of the West Antarctic Fault / Rift System (see here and Figure 2). In fact, this particular documented high heat flow area which scales 150 miles by 100 miles, is proven to be the cause of bottom melting of the Thwaites Glacier which is a mere 80 miles south of the Pine Island Glacier
  • For a more detailed discussion of the West Antarctic Fault / Rift System heat flow and geology, the reader is directed to the following previous Climate Change Dispatch article “West Antarctic Glacial Melting From Deep Earth Geological Heat Flow Not Global Warming”.

Figure 2  Map of the “active” (currently erupting) or “dormant” (semi-active) Antarctic Continent volcanoes,
61 of 62 are located along the branching West Antarctic Fault / Rift System.  This active fault zone is tearing the
continent apart and allowing deep hot magma to flow up the faults feeding the volcanoes (volcanoes shown as red dots).


Next, let’s discuss just released research by the British Arctic Survey (BAS) et al that has put the consensus climate science community into a state of stunned disbelief because it shows that man-made global warming is almost certainly not the cause of West Antarctic glacial ice melting. Shockingly most media outlets have failed to incorporate the conclusions of this very applicable research into their West Antarctic glacial “melting” articles.

BAS researchers evaluated a wide variety of data from multiple scientific disciplines including: very reliable sub-glacial Antarctic geological sediment layering information, historical West Antarctic glacial ice thickness records, and El Nino induced Pacific Ocean warming data to discern the cause of current basal (bottom) melting exhibited in a few West Antarctic glaciers. This multi-discipline approach proved to be the most important factor in discerning the true/root cause of West Antarctic glacial melting because it allowed researchers to remain open-minded and not force-fit ideas or theories into a preconceived atmospherically biased climate framework.

With their eyes now wide open to all possibilities, they realized the data clearly showed initial destabilization of the bottom side of the studied West Antarctic glaciers begin in the 1939-1941 time period, and coincided with an extremely strong Pacific Ocean El Niño warming event. Researchers were also able to show that the glaciers never fully recovered from the 1939-1941 El Niño ocean warming event and that they have remained unstable to this day. Importantly the years 1939 to 1942 are at the very beginning of the supposedly human CO2 emissions atmospheric warming period, which puts serious doubt into the notion global warming is the likely cause of West Antarctic glacial fracturing / break-up (see quote below):

The unavoidable question is what this sequence of events says about our own responsibility for destabilizing Pine Island (and, perhaps, other West Antarctic glaciers). The world was less warm in the 1940s, after all, and the role of human-caused global warming on El Nino events remains debated. For their part, the authors insist they’re staying neutral on the human role, known in the science world as anthropogenic — they’re just reporting new, extremely hard-to-get observations. “Teasing out whether the processes, the mechanisms that we’re talking about were related to anthropogenic forcing was never really the focus of this paper,” says James Smith, a glaciologist with the British Antarctic Survey who’s the first author of the study. “The 1940s is potentially a few years before the really big spike in anthropogenic-forced warming but it’s certainly within the realms of human-induced change.” (see here).

Figure 3  Naturally occurring and very powerful 1939 to 1941 El Niño that acted to destabilize West
Antarctic Glaciers prior to the onset of supposedly human-induced atmospheric warming (see here).


Importantly all scientists, including those advocating the theory of global warming / climate change, now agree that all El Niño’s are generated by naturally occurring non-man-made atmospheric forces. It is here contended, and supported by significant reliable information, that all El Niños are generated by natural deep earth seafloor heat and heated fluid flow associated with large fault / rift systems, not global warming. For details supporting this contention the reader is directed to numerous previous Climate Change Dispatch articles (Why El Niño and La Niña are One Continuous Geological Event, What’s Fueling the Current El Nino (and it’s not Global Warming).

In a broader sense, all of us are exhausted by the tenor of USA politics and media reporting, and its subsequent intrusion into the scientific process. Case in point is the photo atop this article, and associated media report that is essentially a beautifully illustrated Hollywood like presentation with color videos, numerous factoids, and tightly edited quotes from supposedly expert scientists.

The tightly cropped photo atop this article, which is the lead picture on many media articles, is also a bit misleading because it gives the impression that the entire Pine Island Glacier is breaking apart and therefore all land grounded glaciers in West Antarctica area at risk of collapsing. This is not correct. By zooming out as per Figure 4, it can be seen only the terminal end of the glacier that floats on warm ocean water is breaking away.

Figure 4  Satellite image of the USA size Antarctic Continent (left), and the terminal
end of the Pine Island Glacier fracturing and breaking off into the sea (right).


The problem with these types of stories and the politicians who use them is that they do not report applicable alternative theories or facts. Doing this would dilute their storyline, make it more complex, and less compelling. Real science is messy, complex, and rarely fits into tightly constrained consensus boxes. It’s time to restore a more open, free thinking, and multidisciplinary approach to climate science analysis.

In summary, by including a wide variety of data from multiple scientific disciplines—such as pertinent geological information, historical West Antarctic glacial ice thickness data—and the historical Pacific Ocean warming data clearly demonstrates that current fracturing and break-up of several West Antarctic glaciers is a normal/natural phenomenon, and not a man-made environmental disaster.