Researchers have finally identified the reason why Antarctica is not warming in comparison to other continents in response to global warming and climate change. Moreover, the scientists have also solved the mystery of a recent string of droughts in Australia.
A study led by researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) unraveled the mystery of Antarctica's seeming resilience to global warming. According to their findings, increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide have caused the winds in the Southern Ocean to grow stronger.
"With greenhouse warming, Antarctica is actually stealing more of Australia's rainfall. It's not good news - as greenhouse gases continue to rise we'll get fewer storms chased up into Australia," said ANU Research School of earth Sciences researcher Nerlie Abram. Abram is also the lead researcher of the study published in the online journal Nature Climate Change.
While a cool Antarctica sounds like a good thing, the lower temperatures have not been able to stop ice loss in the southern Polar Regions. Researchers have still reported collapsing ice shelves and retreating glaciers. Experts have also recorded an increase in the amount of ice melting during the Antarctic summers. Most of these incidents are occurring in the Antarctic Peninsula, which was not affected by the cooler temperatures. Most of the continent is not affected by global warming. However, the strengthened winds blowing over the Drake Passage has caused a rapid rise in temperatures in the Antarctic Peninsula.
"As the westerly winds are getting tighter they're actually trapping more of the cold air over Antarctica," said Abram. "This is why Antarctica has bucked the trend. Every other continent is warming, and the Arctic is warming fastest of anywhere on earth."
The winds in the Southern Ocean are responsible for bringing moisture into parts of Southern Australia. Since climate change has also pushed these winds towards the direction of Antarctica, Australia has been deprived of much needed moisture necessary to produce rain.
"The Southern Ocean winds are now stronger than at any other time in the past 1,000 years," Abram said.
The researchers were able to reach their conclusions by analyzing ice core samples taken from Antarctica. Coupled with data gathered from analyzing tree rings found in South America, the researchers were able to update the historical records of the westerly winds. Prior to the study, measurements of the wind conditions in Antarctica were considerably outdated. The data Abram and her colleagues gathered indicates that increased levels of greenhouse gasses in the Earth's atmosphere brought about the changes in the winds of the Southern Oceans.