Quantcast

Scientists Find 'Very Unusual' Warming in Antarctic

Climate

Australian National University

By Simon Copland

Ice core cutting showing Dr Nerilie Abram. Photo by Jack Treist.

Scientists have drilled 364 metres into ice to complete the first ever comprehensive temperature record of the Antarctic Peninsula—and they’ve found evidence of “very unusual” and dramatic warming over the last century.

The collapse of ice shelves in Antarctica has seen some of the most dramatic images of human-induced climate change. The collapse of the Prince Gustav and Larsen A Ice Shelves in 1995 and then the collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelve in 2002 stunned scientists, and provided vivid images of the potential future of the southern continent.

New research released today has explained the extent of warming in Antarctic Peninsula, painting a picture of a future of rapid warming and melting ice. The research showed that the Peninsula has seen a rapid warming over the past 100 years, but that this has also come on top 600 years of more gradual, natural warming in the region.

The research was conducted by an international team of climate scientists, including Dr. Nerilie Abram from the Australian National University. The team drilled a 364 metre long ice core spanning thousands of years on James Ross Island. Ice cores show scientists the incremental buildup of the annual layers of snow, providing a time-capsule that shows the climate record over the age of the core. James Ross Island is adjacent to the Larsen A & B and Prince Gustav ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula, which have both seen large collapses recently.

Dr. Abram says the warming over the past 100 years has been dramatic. ”The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming places on Earth at the moment,” Dr. Abram said. ”The last century of warming has been unusually rapid with the mean temperature increasing by about one and a half degrees—one of the fastest temperature increases seen in the ice core record.”

This warming comes on top of 600 years of previous natural warming found in the ice core. The leader of the research expedition, Dr Robert Mulvaney from the British Antarctic Survey, said: "The exceptionally fast warming over the last 100 years came on top of a slower natural climate warming that began around 600 years ago—well before the industrial revolution—so it is possible that we are now seeing the combination of natural and man-made warming in this area.”

What this means is that climate change is adding significant extra pressure to the Antarctic Peninsula ice sheets that were already seeing some strain from the natural warming in the region. Dr. Abram says this could potentially have a huge impact in other parts of the continent in the future. "Our ice core record, which spans over thousands of years shows that there is a very close link between ice shelf stability and temperature. So if warming continues we can expect that ice shelves will become less stable,” she said.

Dr. Abram says this could have a big impact in the parts of Antarctica that lie to the south and west of the Antarctic Peninsula. These areas have seen more modest warming over the past 100 years, but that that is beginning to change.

“The ice shelves along the west coast are showing signs of becoming less stable, but we haven’t seen the big collapses that we’ve seen on the Antarctic Peninsula so far,” she said. “The big concern about that area is that it is where the West Antarctic ice sheet is. The amount of ice being lost there is accelerating and this is contributing to global sea level rise.”

It paints a worrying picture, according to Abram: “The main finding of our research is that warming as fast as this is very unusual. We should be very concerned about that.”

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Aerial assessment of Hurricane Sandy damage in Connecticut. Dannel Malloy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Extreme weather events supercharged by climate change in 2012 led to nearly 1,000 more deaths, more than 20,000 additional hospitalizations, and cost the U.S. healthcare system $10 billion, a new report finds.

Read More Show Less
Giant sequoia trees at Sequoia National Park, California. lucky-photographer / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A Bay Area conservation group struck a deal to buy and to protect the world's largest remaining privately owned sequoia forest for $15.6 million. Now it needs to raise the money, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
This aerial view shows the Ogasayama Sports Park Ecopa Stadium, one of the venues for 2019 Rugby World Cup. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP / Getty Images

The Rugby World Cup starts Friday in Japan where Pacific Island teams from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga will face off against teams from industrialized nations. However, a new report from a UK-based NGO says that when the teams gather for the opening ceremony on Friday night and listen to the theme song "World In Union," the hypocrisy of climate injustice will take center stage.

Read More Show Less
Vera_Petrunina / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Wudan Yan

In June, New York Times journalist Andy Newman wrote an article titled, "If seeing the world helps ruin it, should we stay home?" In it, he raised the question of whether or not travel by plane, boat, or car—all of which contribute to climate change, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers—might pose a moral challenge to the responsibility that each of us has to not exacerbate the already catastrophic consequences of climate change. The premise of Newman's piece rests on his assertion that traveling "somewhere far away… is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change."

Read More Show Less
Volunteer caucasian woman giving grain to starving African children. Bartosz Hadyniak / E+ / Getty Images

By Frances Moore Lappé

Food will be scarce, expensive and less nutritious," CNN warns us in its coverage of the UN's new "Climate Change and Land" report. The New York Times announces that "Climate Change Threatens the World's Food Supply."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
British Airways 757. Jon Osborne / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Adam Vaughan

Two-thirds of people in the UK think the amount people fly should be reined in to tackle climate change, polling has found.

Read More Show Less
Climate Week NYC

On Monday, Sept. 23, the Climate Group will kick off its 11th annual Climate Week NYC, a chance for governments, non-profits, businesses, communities and individuals to share possible solutions to the climate crisis while world leaders gather in the city for the UN Climate Action Summit.

Read More Show Less

By Pam Radtke Russell in New Orleans

Local TV weather forecasters have become foot soldiers in the war against climate misinformation. Over the past decade, a growing number of meteorologists and weathercasters have begun addressing the climate crisis either as part of their weather forecasts, or in separate, independent news reports to help their viewers understand what is happening and why it is important.

Read More Show Less