Both the MSNBC.com and Climate Central articles made clear that the East ice sheet hasn’t started to erode yet. Indeed, the West ice continues to be the focus of concern.
Siegert, who was quoted in Climate Central’s story, was one of the authors of the other paper about the Weddell Sea area published this week, which appeared in the journal Nature Geoscience. That study reported that the part of West Antarctic ice sheet next to the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf sits on ground that is below sea level and slopes steeply downward going inland, which could cause instability.
The second paper didn’t get as much attention as the first, but it, too, received faulty coverage. The MSNBC.com article that used Bindschadler’s expertise so effectively, incorrectly reported that the slope of the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf, rather than the bedrock underlying the West ice sheet, was the concern. A piece from LiveScience.com made the same mistake, and also referred to Filchner-Ronne as an ice sheet, rather than an ice shelf.
Given the scope and degree of bad information that gets published and broadcast—due to both ideological distortion and honest mistakes—these errors may seem a little small-bore. But that’s exactly the point. There is an informational war raging over climate science, which makes the need for precise and meticulous reporting by the press all the more crucial. Otherwise, reporters end up contributing to the stretching or misrepresenting of conclusions, rather than helping to keep the debate grounded in the reality of what the science tells us.