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The South Pole Warmed Up Three Times Faster Than The Rest Of The Planet

The South Pole Warmed Up Three Times Faster Than The Rest Of The Planet

In recent decades, the South pole has warmed three times as much as the entire planet on average. According to researchers who published an article in Nature Climate Change, such strong warming occurred as a result of a strong cyclonic anomaly in the Weddell Sea.

The average temperature of the Earth has been rising since at least the 1880s. Over the past century, our planet has warmed by about 0.6 degrees Celsius, but this process has occurred unevenly for different regions. Polar zones are particularly sensitive to climate change since glaciers reflect sunlight well, and their melting leads to a decrease in the surface albedo and, as a result, its heating.

Kyle R. Clem from the University of Victoria in Wellington, along with colleagues, analyzed the records made by 20 meteorological stations in Antarctica, including the southernmost Observatory of the planet, the Amundsen-Scott station. In 2018, it recorded a record high temperature, which was 2.4 degrees Celsius above the average for the past three decades. An analysis of data from 1957 to 2018 showed that since 1988, the region experienced record-breaking warming with temperatures increasing by 0.6 degrees Celsius every decade. This is almost three times higher than the average value for the planet.

In addition to temperature, the team studied atmospheric data to determine how much of the warming may be due to natural variability and how much to human activity. It turned out that the increase in temperature may be associated with a decrease in atmospheric pressure in the Weddell sea area, which is why warmer air seems to have become easier to penetrate from the South Atlantic to the region.

The decrease in pressure, as shown by climate models, led to an increase in temperature in the tropics in the Western Pacific ocean. This is consistent with the results of previous work, in which scientists have established a link between increased cyclonic activity near the Drake Strait and the negative phase of the Pacific decadal oscillation — a temperature pattern in the Pacific ocean, which is about 20-30 years in either the cold or warm phase.

While the increase in the temperature of Antarctica is within the boundaries of possible natural climate variations, the authors emphasize that there is every reason to believe that the observed trends were caused not only by natural variability but also by greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. However, they can not say this with certainty, since meteorological observations on the continent began only in 1957, and there is simply not enough data for such conclusions.

We recently reported that the area of summer ice cover on the Weddell sea has decreased by a million square kilometers compared to 2013, and the area of sea ice in Antarctica has decreased to 5.47 million square kilometers by January 1, 2019 — the historical minimum for this date in the forty-year history of satellite observations.