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Title: Antarctic climate and ice sheet changes and their relationship to global scale climate change over the last 2000 years
Author: Steig, E.J.
Periodical: American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2012, abstract #PP12B-01
Abstract:

It is well known that the Antarctic ice sheet is changing rapidly and is probably now out of balance; at least in West Antarctica, it is now contributing significantly to sea level rise. Yet Antarctica is often thought of as being immune to the influence of anthropogenic climate trends affecting the rest of the planet. This view is based largely on the record of instrumental observations, which is both very short and largely exclusive of regions in West Antarctica that are undergoing rapid change (1). Data from ice cores (2) and boreholes (3) from across the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the Antarctic Peninsula (4), coupled with new instrumental reconstructions (5, 6) paint a very different picture. The two newest long records from Antarctica --- at WAIS Divide (2) and at James Ross Island on the Antarctic Peninsula (4) -- show that over the last 2000 years, the temporal pattern of temperature change is similar to that for the Arctic: slow decline attributable to Milankovitch orbital forcing, interrupted by recent warming. The century-scale warming trend began early in the 20th century, coincident with strong warming trends across the Southern Hemisphere, and well before the advent of the ozone hole, to which Antarctic climate trends are frequently attributed (e.g. 7). Decadal temperature variability in Antarctica also follows averaged Southern Hemisphere variations: all the major decadal anomalies in the ~150-year instrumental climate record of the Southern Hemisphere appear in West Antarctica. Similar to the rest of the planet, the warmest period since at least 1850 C.E. in the Antarctic was the most recent two decades (1990s and 2000s), and the most recent warming in West Antarctica (including but not limited to the Peninsula) has been as rapid as anywhere else on Earth. The decadal to century-scale variations in West Antarctic temperature reflect by the strong dynamical link between the tropical Pacific and the southern high latitudes described by the Pacific South America (PSA) pattern, analogous to the better-known PNA of the Northern Hemisphere8. The atmospheric circulation anomalies associated with the PSA account not only for the temperature variability, but also for the recent observed changes in sea ice, and the ocean-driven melting of the margins of the large outlet glaciers that drain West Antarctica. Recent Antarctic ice losses are thus directly connected to global scale climate change, and cannot be attributed simply to local decadal variability or stochastic variations in glacier dynamics. 1. E. J. Steig et al., Nature 457, 459 (2009). 2. E. J. Steig et al., Nat. Geosci. in review, (2012). 3. A. J. Orsi, B. D. Cornuelle, J. P. Severinghaus, Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L09710 (2012). 4. R. Mulvaney et al., Nature in press, (2012). 5. M. Kouttel, E. J. Steig, Q. Ding, D. S. Battisti, A. J. Monaghan, Clim. Dyn. in press, (2012). 6. D. Bromwich, pers. comm., 2012. 7. D. W. J. Thompson et al., Nat. Geosci. 4, 741 (2011). 8. Y. Okumura, D. P. Schneider, C. Deser, R. Wilson. J. Climate in press, (2012).

Year: 2012