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April 01, 2006

Antarctic Air Warming Is Earth's Fastest Environment

Another day, another horrifying global warming story. Times of UK:

Air temperatures above the entire frozen continent of Antarctica have risen three times faster than the rest of the world during the past 30 years.

While it is well established that temperatures are increasing rapidly in the Antarctic Peninsula, the land tongue that protrudes towards South America, the trend has been harder to confirm over the continent as a whole.

Now analysis of weather balloon data by scientists at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has shown that not only are the lower reaches of the Antarctic atmosphere warming, but that they are doing so at the fastest rate observed anywhere on Earth.

Temperatures in the troposphere — the lowest 8km (5 miles) of the atmosphere — have increased by between 0.5C and 0.7 C (0.9F and 1.3F) per decade over the past 30 years.

This signature of climate change is three times stronger than the average observed around the world, suggesting that global warming is having an uneven impact and that it could be greater for Antarctica. [...]

The new research, led by John Turner, of the BAS, shows that the air above the surface of Antarctica is definitely warming, in ways that are not predicted by climate models and that cannot yet be explained. The results are published today in the journal Science.

“The rapid surface warming of the Antarctic Peninsula and the enhanced global warming signal over the whole continent shows the complexity of climate change,” Dr Turner said.

“Greenhouses gases could be having a bigger impact in Antarctica than across the rest of the world and we don’t understand why.

“The warming above the Antarctic could have implications for snowfall across the Antarctic and sea level rise. Current climate model simulations don’t reproduce the observed warming, pointing to weaknesses in their ability to represent the Antarctic climate system. Our next step is to try to improve the models.” [...]

The study is the third to be published this month to suggest that the effects of global warming on Antarctica are likely to be more pronounced than has often been predicted.

Research has indicated that the melting of the Greenland ice-cap in the Arctic could produce sea level rises that destabilise Antarctic ice-shelves, and Nasa satellite data have shown the internal Antarctic ice-sheets to be thinning. [Emphasis added]

There's a disturbing trend in all these stories. Where observations fail to match current climate models, the discrepancies all seem to be going one way: the actual situation is considerably more grave than the models predict. The models are bad enough. Reality is shaping up to be a good deal worse.

Somebody's got to figure out how to turn these stories into compelling video, so they can get a toehold on the evening news.

Posted by Jonathan at April 1, 2006 05:30 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb