Temperature Increase of up to 1.5 Degrees Predicted in Antarctic Peninsula by 2044

A new study demonstrates that climate change will cause the temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula to increase by 0.5°C to 1.5°C by 2044. The study involved an analysis of historic and predicted simulations from 19 global climate models.

Sunset on the Antarctic Peninsula. A recent analysis showed the Peninsula is likely to warm and face greater rainfalls over the next two decades. Image Credit: Getty Images.

The predicted indicated that precipitation, which is a threat to ice if it turns into rain—will probably increase on the Peninsula by around 5% to 10% over the same time period.

The predictions of the study were recently published in the Climate Dynamics journal.

We are concerned about these findings. We’ve been seeing overall quite big changes on the peninsula, generally getting warmer and ice shelves and glaciers discharging into the ocean.

David Bromwich, Study Leading Author and Research Professor, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center and Department of Geography, The Ohio State University

The Peninsula resembles a tail attached to the northwest side of Antarctica, curving next to the southernmost part of Chile and South America.

From the 1950s, the peninsula, together with the remaining regions of the western part of Antarctica, has been one of the quickest-warming regions on Earth.

Since it is covered in mountains—the highest peak measures just more than 10,600 ft—regular climate models neglect a few of the nuances of how the Peninsula is impacted by climate change, stated Bromwich.

The issue for the Antarctic peninsula is that it’s this narrow but high mountain range, and these big models spanning the whole continent don’t take that into account. Our goal was to provide more detail in those projections.

David Bromwich, Study Leading Author and Research Professor, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center and Department of Geography, The Ohio State University

The study discovered that the highest increases in temperature, of around 2°C, were probably to occur in the Antarctic fall and winter, but warmer temperatures predicted for summer would be more problematic.

According to Bromwich, that could be a double threat to the ice on the Peninsula. Also, warmer temperatures imply that some precipitation that might have earlier fallen as snow will probably fall as rain.

More rain implies less snow on top of the ice, which saves ice from the rays of the sun by reflecting them back into the sky.

But now, if you have bare ice, or ice that’s a little bit melting, and the sun beats down on it, a good fraction of that energy goes into melting. And we’ve seen this in the past with other ice shelves—it’s like a hammer, it just shatters.

David Bromwich, Study Leading Author and Research Professor, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center and Department of Geography, The Ohio State University

Moreover, the researchers found that to truly forecast what might occur on the Peninsula, more nuanced, improved climate models are required.

Huge climate models covering the Earth’s entire surface usually tend to ignore other factors particular to smaller regions. Bromwich stated that, in the Antarctic Peninsula, an ignored factor is the alteration of the westerlies—winds blowing from west to east close to either pole.

The westerlies blow directly over the Antarctic Peninsula, thereby making a kind of micro-climate that huge climate models tend to miss usually.

Specifically, such nuances are significant in the Antarctic Peninsula, which has been considered, since the late 1970s, as a crucial forefront of what might happen across the rest of Antarctica.

Climate scientists have come to an understanding that the Peninsula is more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

John Mercer, another Ohio State scientist, is the first person to forecast that changes across Antarctica would first be observed on the Peninsula. He is internationally renowned for his studies on climate change in Antarctica.

Journal Reference:

Bozkurt, D., et al. (2021) Temperature and precipitation projections for the Antarctic Peninsula over the next two decades: contrasting global and regional climate model simulations. Climate Dynamics. doi.org/10.1007/s00382-021-05667-2.

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