A team studying snowfall in Antarctica discovered that the continent saw an increase in snowfall over the last 200 years. Rising snowfall could be a warning sign for rising sea levels.
It would seem like more snowfall could be a good thing, but it might be making things worse.
Rising Sea Levels
Research into the rising snowfall was conducted by an international team led by British Antarctic Survey. Findings for the study will be presented at the European Geosciences Union event in Vienna.
Scientists conducted an analysis of 79 ice cores that were collected from all across Antarctica. This research revealed that there has been a 10 percent increase in snowfall over the last 200 years. They estimated this would be equal to 272 gigatons of water.
The compacted snow in the ice cores was then analyzed to measure the amount of snowfall in each season. Chemicals were used that would show a seasonal change. The chemicals would peak in the summer and be at a minimum during the winter.
Researchers measured the time difference between the chemical peaks to estimate the amount of snowfall Antarctica received. This analysis showed that almost 300 billion tons of additional snow fell during 2001 to 2010 compared to the years 1801 to 1810.
Scientists are trying to determine what these findings mean for sea levels.
Offsetting The Melting
Previous research into climate change has shown that rising temperature means that weather would become extreme on both ends. This means that there will be hotter weather during the summer and also colder weather during the winter, with more severe snowstorms. This change is already underway in Antarctica.
An increase in snowfall was measured to be occurring all over Antarctica. Rising snowfall has been able to offset the melting that has been happening there. This rise in snowfall was able to reduce sea level rise by several millimeters. Experts from the study say that this wasn't enough.
Glaciers are melting at a faster rate than snow is falling to replace it in Antarctica. Glacial retreat from areas in West Antarctica such as Pine Island and Thwaites Glacier contribute to about 14 percent of the sea level rise.
To get a better understanding of the impacts of climate change on Antarctica, scientists want to create computer simulations to predict the rise of global sea levels. They want to see how the mass gain from the snowfall can act differently from the mass loss from melting.