Antarctica’s historical temperature and snowfall record: Why researchers have baffled

The origin of the last warm wave in Antarctica can be traced back to the great historical atmospheric river, a column of concentrated moisture that draws warm air (EFE)

a few days ago, The temperature in some areas of East Antarctica exceeded the average measurement by 30 degrees, and in the case of the Franco-Italian base of Concordia, it exceeded the norm by 40 degrees. From the expected -55 degrees at the time, the thermometers were at around -12 degrees Celsius.

The origin of this warm wave can be traced back to a large wave Historical atmospheric river, a column of concentrated moisture carrying warm air from warm water. this is a reason Incredible accumulation of snow Inside the ice sheet, something very rare in that polar region.

In what may be considered a different phenomenon, Satellite images showed that the Conger Ice Shelf, a chunk of ice-like in the Los Angeles area, collapsed into the sea around the same time on March 15..

Scientists are looking for understand what happened. Recent and sudden recordings of temperature and humidity force Changing perspective on climate in Antarctica And it raises questions about the impact it could have in the future.

Some researchers say it’s too early to know What role does climate change play here, if any. Meanwhile, these extreme oscillations are the subject of new studies.

This satellite image provided by NASA in February 2022 shows the collapse of the Conger Ice Shelf in East Antarctica, an area long considered stable (NASA via AP)
This satellite image provided by NASA in February 2022 shows the collapse of the Conger Ice Shelf in East Antarctica, an area long considered stable (NASA via AP)

We didn’t think such an amount of heat was possible in Antarctica, especially in what must be the coldest season.He said about the heat wave Jonathan Willey, Postdoctoral Researcher at Grenoble Alpes University in Franceadding: “We’ve never seen the atmosphere behave like this over Antarctica.”

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The heat wave and indoor snowfall greatly highlight the importance of a better understanding The complex dynamics of atmospheric rivers, which today enhance ice cover but may be a cause for concern in the future. A better understanding of these patterns could be the key to this Understand the future of the Arctic.

Willie added that it is possible that this type of weather is a rare and unusual phenomenon, and it is something that can happen Once every 100 years, regardless of climate change. He said researchers may not have measured climate trends in Antarctica long enough to see such an anomaly before. Heavy snowfall during a heat wave may seem an unexpected phenomenon, but Antarctica is after all, with indoor winter temperatures routinely dropping below minus 60 degrees.

The last atmospheric river event occurred over the course of several days. March 17 was the fourth wettest day since 1980 in Antarctica.according to the modeling and analysis Xavier Fettweis, Professor of Climatology at the University of Liege in Belgium. “An extreme event of this magnitude has not been observed. Referring to the Concordia region, said Peter Neff, a glaciologist and climate scientist at the University of Minnesota.

Jonathan Wylie, a researcher at the University of Grenoble in France (Reuters) said:
“We didn’t think that such an amount of heat was possible in Antarctica, especially in what must be the coldest season,” said Jonathan Wylie, a researcher at the University of Grenoble in France (Reuters).

Coastal temperatures exceeded freezing levels and rain hit the coast. Heavy snowfall in the interior of East Antarctica added an estimated 69 gigatons of water mass to the ice sheet.According to Fettweis’ model. This is roughly equivalent to 28 million Olympic pools from the added mass of water that fell into frozen form. This represents more than a third of Antarctica’s annual ice loss..

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Such events help mitigate some of the sea level rise caused by climate change by storing water in the form of polar ice.For this reason, the snowfall also provides important protection. Some of the Antarctic ice shelves, and the floating ice that sticks to the Antarctic coast, are losing mass and are at risk of collapsing at sea. At the moment, a large part comes From this risk of thawing from below, due to higher water temperatures.

Snowfall is a good thing, because it adds to this insulating layer on the surface of this ice sheet. The damper can absorb more melt in the future“, He said Michelle McLennan, PhD student at the University of Coloradowho studied the effects of atmospheric rivers in West Antarctica and on the Thwaites Glacier.

“It’s hard to judge the effects, but this event really is He challenges us to change our understanding of what was the scope of extremism‘, the researcher noted.

The so-called “rivers in the sky” or atmospheric rivers are not uncommon in Antarctica. Previous research by Wylie suggests that it is responsible for about 10-20% of all snowfall in East Antarctica. McLennan said West Antarctica could see anywhere from a handful to more than 10 such events per year.

The origin of this warm wave goes back to the great historical atmospheric river, a column of concentrated moisture that draws warm air out of the warmer water (Reuters)
The origin of this warm wave goes back to the great historical atmospheric river, a column of concentrated moisture that draws warm air out of the warmer water (Reuters)

In Antarctica, it can be hard to know what’s normal or expected. Temperatures can fluctuate wildly, the continent has relatively few weather stations, and satellite observations are only about 40 years old. “The classic Antarctic problem: It’s all against you to be able to put anything in context,” one researcher quipped.

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These patterns arise in oceans and in warmer latitudes. “They are like moisture extinguishing stations‘ said a glaciologist from the University of Minnesota. This fire hose in mid-March was the strangest ever seen in Antarctica.

Unlocks the anomalies posed by these extreme weather phenomena new questions. How these patterns emerge in the future could have dramatic consequences for ice shelves and sea level rise around the world.

The effects of climate change are not as evident in this region as they are in other parts of the world. Was the heat wave a new sign of its impact? Researchers do not know yet.

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Freddie Dawson

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