News / Science & Technology

As Planet Warms, Winds Keep Antarctic Cool

Jagged mountains throw long shadows on the Antarctic peninsula Jan. 20, 2009.
Jagged mountains throw long shadows on the Antarctic peninsula Jan. 20, 2009.
Rosanne Skirble
Intense winds help Antarctica keep its cool despite climate change, according to a new study.

Scientists overwhelmingly agree global warming exists and humans are largely responsible, but  Antarctica seems to have bucked the trend, with portions of it cooling, while the rest of the planet heats up.  

The key to Antarctic weather is the wind, says Australian National University climate scientist Nerilie Abram, lead author of a new study that explains this in the context of a warmer world.  

“They control how far north the rain bands go out of the Southern ocean," Abram said. "And they are also really important for temperature and in particular for the temperature of Antarctica and also the Antarctic peninsula, which is the bit of Antarctica that juts out right into the path of those westerly winds.”  
LISTEN: Antarctica Cooling Explained
Antarctica Cooling Explainedi
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That westerly wind belt circulates the continent. The study in Nature Climate Change finds that those winds are now stronger and their path tighter than at any time in the past 1,000 years.  That change has been especially prominent since the 1940s.

Abram and her team reconstructed Antarctica's climate history from ice cores.  They conclude the wind has kept a large part of the continent cold, unlike anywhere else on the planet.  

“But we can explain that because as those westerly winds are getting stronger, they are actually tying [trapping] the cold air over Antarctica, and it stops warm air masses from being able to get over the continent and help to warm Antarctica," Abram said. "So this example of something that seems like a climate change paradox, we can actually explain by these greenhouse gases that are strengthening the westerly winds and isolating parts of Antarctica.”  
Antarctic cloudsi
May 12, 2014 7:34 PM
Climate scientist Nerilie Abram of the Australian National University explains how the wind pattern that circulates Antarctica affects the Antarctic continent and beyond.(Credit: ANU Media)

But they are not isolating the Antarctic Peninsula and parts of the Western Antarctic ice sheet that lie directly in their path.  

“So as those winds have strengthened and pulled in tighter around Antarctica, they are actually bringing warmer air over those parts, particularly over the Antarctic Peninsula," she said. "And this is the part of the southern hemisphere that is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth at the moment."  

Those westerly winds have deviated from their natural course, which would have driven cold fronts into the southern hemisphere.  Instead the air is trapped over Antarctica and keeping rain from falling on Australia.

“What has been happening over the recent decades is that those westerly winds have been shifting south and we are getting fewer of those cold fronts and storms coming up and giving that really important rain," she said. "And that is why Australia is experiencing these very severe droughts.”

Abram adds the Southern ocean winds, which have intensified because of the warmer atmosphere, could revert to a more normal pattern if action were taken to reduce greenhouse gases.
Antarctic ice core drillingi
May 12, 2014 7:34 PM
Climate scientist Nerilie Abram talks about field work from the Antarctic Penninsula where a team of researchers are drilling an ice core. (Credit: ANU Media)

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: FARCE! from: usa
May 16, 2014 5:12 PM
Global Warming is a United Nations FARCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In Response

by: Rick Woodruff
May 19, 2014 10:08 PM
dale...dale you are full of is well known that co2 is emitted into this planet by more than us humans..if co2 as they claim is our biggest problem well we emit a fraction of it..that is a fact..the ipcc only puts out what they want us to hear..there are many scientists who reject their peer reviewed papers...most of the so called climate scientists who fuel a lot of this crap is only a lot of blatant lies that they percieve too keep being funded and live a nice life while they scaremonger humans ..if what they say is right our planet should heat up every year and does not and wont..they nit pick areas and they and you know want too go on about certain people..kosc brotheres or whoever...if ya want too see the evil behind this from the atart look up maurice strong..climatism......there is the evil
In Response

by: dale from: USA
May 18, 2014 4:44 PM
Be prepared for people who have never taken one class in climate science or read one scholarly book to dismiss the 99% consensus of scientists.

Who benefits from this kind of anti-science farce? Those who profit from cointinuing pollution of the environment: the oligarchs who control the fossil fuel industry and their pawns. The anti-science folks serve, with all due respect as useful idiots in the conspiracy to confuse the public and thus prevent or delay rational anti-pollution regulation.

Meanwhile, fossil fuels kill 8 million people a year and sicken hundreds of millions, with all the costs shifted from the responsible energy cartels to the public and the government.

Be prepared for people flat earthers to deny climate change and oppose the findings of science. Be prepared to the see the results of the millions the Koch brothers have paid to brainwash the public.

by: Rick Woodruff
May 15, 2014 10:36 AM
worst part about what is going on over the last year or however long is the ice core drilling that has been going on..please i hope they dont send all these samples too the wackos at the ipcc..looking forward too the bending of the truth if they do...all i can say is they need too send half too them and other half too people too scientists that dont agree with global warming /climate change and we can then see who turns around and says we got it wrong..i am thinking i know who it will be

by: F. Side
May 14, 2014 9:51 PM
Circular logic here. The winds cause colder climate. The colder climate shows up in core samples, ergo the core samples prove higher winds than ever. I have never read anything anywhere that said that core samples can tell you what the windspeed was. Not buying this one.

by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Nakameguro,TKO
May 14, 2014 11:03 AM
We had used renewable energy before we found to use fossil fuel and these renewable energy were enough for them because there were few people on earth.
Reneable energy is very weak energy, so we are not able to keep alive people on earth. If you would say we should use only renewable energy, please stop using energy right now and it means you should die right now!
In Response

by: dale\\ from: usa
May 18, 2014 4:48 PM
There is enough solar energy to provide for all energy needs.
In many areas, solar is not at a par or lower priced than conventional fuel, and unlike, the dirty fuels, it does not have to shift (hide) the costs of health and environmental damage, including climate change.

Even Germany, which has weather like Seattle, is replacing dirty fuels with solar. Solar molten salt plants, such as those in Arizona, Nevada, and California can provide energy 24/7--and once the infrastructure is built, it is almost free.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel prices continue to rise and the damage it causes increases, along with the trillions in damage it does.

Be prepared for those who have never read on book on energy to refute the findings not only of scientists but of existing plants. The Koch brainwashing campaign is working! Dangerously...tragically.

by: Cranksy from: USA
May 13, 2014 2:32 PM
What is the vantage point of the camera showing the winds circulating Antarctica?
In Response

by: randy from: md.
May 14, 2014 10:47 PM
to watch for any change in wind pattern .If it would change on a large scale , our weather is going to be more exstreme than it has in the past 25 years.I will have to agree with Jimmy its greed and big oil BP ECT. and NUKE plants that are poorly built for exstreme weather. please learn from Japan disaster.

by: Jimmy
May 13, 2014 12:34 PM
Whether or not any one subscribes to anthropogenic climate change , one thing is for certain , fossil fuels are polluting the air , land and sea . So forget your politics and the rest of the blather , renewable clean energy is the only way we can avoid living in a polluted cesspool . People have been arguing about climate change since at least 1973 , and still have not agreed .

So it would behoove us all , at least those of us who are sane , to cut down carbon emissions , and phase out fossil fuels .There is no doubt that we live in a place with FINITE resources , therefore it is merely Common Sense to pursue renewable clean energy . Unfortunately greed and selfishness are driving the argument at present .
In Response

by: dale from: usa
May 18, 2014 4:51 PM
Have.n't you heard?: pollution is good for us. All scientists are lying
Science is a fraud.

In Response

by: Rick Woodruff
May 14, 2014 10:11 AM
jimmy the reason why most people have had enough of it all is if you go back too the date you said and learn about the shady figure named maurice strong who started this all you will see why people a dubious of the whole thing..the old carbon emissions and doubt we all one day will head that way cleaning our act up a bit but not through government organistions who try us with their propaganda bull s..t and expect us too follow them like sheep.

if you want the real deal well look at the conversations with peter taylor he is on the right track and can see the lies as well...i for one don't like too see our government given handouts too solar and wind companys with rebates cos of this global warming stuff they go on about..all it does is drive up electricity prices too get money back...same as the handouts for lpg much is that now..we will clean our act up sooner or later but not at the expense of fossil fuels...use them while we can until the governments have got the balls to put up nuclear power stations cos that is where it will have to be sooner or later

by: Georgio from: Australia
May 13, 2014 6:27 AM
...she said. "And that is why Australia is experiencing these very severe droughts.”

Mate, Australia is known as the sunburnt country (also the Lucky country) for a reason and has been dealing with droughts for centuries and well before white man even set foot on the red sand. This has nothing to do with 'Human Induced Climate Change'. I get the feeling she didn't think Aussies would be reading this otherwise she wouldn't have made such a silly comment.

by: Rex
May 13, 2014 1:53 AM
So the 20,000 odd scientists who do not agree are insignificant are they Rosanne?
In Response

by: deidra from: HOUSTON
May 19, 2014 10:42 PM
Thanks,Rex, for the comment by Yeats. I think of that particular quote almost daily, as I think the world's pundits grow more insane by the day.
If man is truly the evil-doer in this "climate change" operation, why aren't China, Russia, and Mexico...involved in this mix? Don't the winds bring pollution to all parts of the world? What about the waters.
Sometimes, I think that the world has become a cartoon.
In Response

by: dale from: usa
May 18, 2014 3:00 PM
People with no background (having taken not one class or read one scholarly book) know more than 99% of climate scientists.

People who have no experience as jet engineers know more than jet engineers.

People who know noting of biology know more than those
crazy scientists with their evolution bullshit.

Strong opinions trump science.

In the Second Coming, Yeats makes the point:

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

by: Kevin from: Thailand
May 13, 2014 1:22 AM
Surely there is a very basic effect that seems overlooked. Every drinker knows it, but I suppose because there isn't a thermometer in their drink it doesn't occur to them: When you have ice in water the temperature remains at zero until the very last piece of ice melts - and then it rockets up to ambient temperature. That's what is happening in the arctic, antarctic, and therefore the entire planet. Temperatures will not change radically until the ice in the sea is gone (or nearly gone) and then temperatures will accelerate rapidly. The floating ice is the brake on the planet's temperature. Stick a thermometer in an ice bucket and watch the effect yourself.

by: Radknight from: Sydney
May 13, 2014 1:18 AM
Whatever happened to 'Antarctica ice thawing and water rising 3 metres" or " Irreversible Thawing" or "Unstoppable"? Oh... that's on the other alarmist websites and 'news'.

Talk about 'inconvenient truth'. The truth is getting a little bit too inconvenient for these alarmists as their stories and data don't match up and we're being bombarded with even newer, more dramatic 'climate change' scare tactics and hype. Who can outdo whom? I'm pretty open minded but I have to ask why is it so hard to provide or agree upon any irrefutable, undeniable evidence that humans are causing this climate change? First the New Ice Age, then the depleted Ozone Layer (which I bought into), then Global Warming now Climate Change and Human Induced Climate Change. When does it stop?

Seriously, just call it a global clampdown on pollution and stop treating us like teenagers and threatening to take away our allowance and you'll get more acceptance and participation than you will with this gobbity gook state funded 'science', carbon taxing and emissions trading schemes. If you want us to be conscious of pollution, power usage, etc just tell us in a rational, believable way and we may just go along with it. These scare tactics aren't working and are coming across with as much viability as the boy that cried wolf and Chicken Little.

Anything to keep the gravy train rolling.
In Response

by: dale from: usa
May 18, 2014 3:17 PM
Antarctic sea ice is about 5 feet deep and surrounds the land ice cap, which is about 7000 ft deep. The ice cap is melting at record rates. The sea ice is tiny fraction compared to the Antarctic ice cap, which contains 2/3 of the world's fresh water.

Although average sea ice extents around Antarctica have been increasing over the last several years, land-based ice sheets are melting at fast rates. reports

" the ice around Antarctica is growing, but the ice on the continent is shrinking, and both are a result of climate change. Just how much it’s changing and how fast depends on where you look.

In some parts of the continent, the Antarctic ice is melting just as rapidly as the ice in the Arctic Circle. In fact, the Antarctic peninsula, which juts into the Southern Ocean, was one of the earliest climate change “hot spots”, where rapid warming caused enormous segments of glaciers to break off into the ocean.

In a recent study in the journal Nature Geoscience, new ice core data from James Ross Island, located at the northern tip of the peninsula, shows that warming on the peninsula has reached its highest rate in 1,000 years, Nerilie Abram, a research fellow at Australian National University and lead author of the study said that the ice melt in peninsula has increased 10-fold over the last 600 years, with the largest increases occurring in the last half century.

." Abram, a research fellow at Australian National University and lead author of the study said that the ice melt in peninsula has increased 10-fold over the last 600 years, with the largest increases occurring in the last half century.

It seems counter intuitive, but that growth is a result of the glacial melt happening on the rest of the continent, Carleton said. As fresh water melts into the ocean it decreases the salinity of the seawater, he explained. Water with less salt content freezes at a higher temperature, so even with warming air temperatures melting the glaciers, the Antarctic Ocean continues to gain sea ice.

It seems paradoxical, but it makes sense,” Carleton (a professor of physical geography) said.."

So the 7000 ft deep ice cap is melting rapidly in Antarctica, while the shallow sea ice is increasing.

Meanwhile, Last year, the Arctic ice cap shrunk to a record low, with only 24 percent of the Arctic Ocean covered by ice, a 50 percent drop from its 1979-2000 summer average. At the height of the 2012 summer, Greenland had experienced melting across 90 percent of its surface"

Those with absolutely no knowledge of climate science and no tolerance for paradox will have a high degree of certainty that they are right and all the scientists are wrong. This is a most dangerous combination of ignorance and hubris.


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