Antarctic Mass Increasing, But Why Did It Take 7 Years (!) To Publish the Data?

NASA glaciologist Jay Zwally just published an important article “Mass gains of the Antarctic ice sheet exceed losses” in the December 2015 issue of the Journal of Glaciology, Volume 61, Number 230.

The question that immediately comes to my mind on reading the abstract is why did it take 7 years to analyze and publish data that has been available since 2008 and before?

The most recent data used is from the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) collected from 2003 to 2008 showing a mass gain of 82 +/- 25 Gigatons per year corresponding to a sea-level reduction of .23 mm per year. For the period 1992 to 2001, data from the European Remote-sensing Satellite (ERS)  showed a gain of 112 +/- 61 Gigatons per year.

As Steve McIntyre pointed out on on December 2, “the very long delay between availability of IceSat results (2003-2008) and Zwally’s presentation of results to IMBIE in 2012 and their eventual publication in late 2015 – far longer than the usual cycle of publication of satellite data e.g. the numerous GRACE articles – is disquieting. Zwally was clearly worried that his results would ‘give fodder to the skeptics’ and/or ‘dilute the message’ (to borrow terminology from Mann’s correspondence about hiding the decline), worrying to Nature that ‘some of the climate deniers will jump on this’.”

It’s even more disconcerting that a scientific organization such as NASA would publish the following disclaimer at the top of its news announcement about the study.

NOTE: The findings reported here conflict with over a decade of other measurements, including previous NASA studies. However, challenges to existing findings are an integral part of the scientific process and can help clarify and advance understanding. Additional scrutiny and follow-up research will be required before this study can be reconciled with the preponderance of evidence supporting the widely accepted model of a shrinking Antarctic ice sheet.

So NASA now decides science by “preponderance of evidence” like a civil lawsuit? And why is research “required” to “reconcile”  this new study with the “widely accepted model…”? Doesn’t science speak for itself and stand on the truth and the facts? Science never needs to be reconciled with widely accepted beliefs, only with facts.

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