Science & Technology

Antarctica Warming, Says New Study

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A new study in the journal Nature, using interpolated satellite data, finds that Antarctica is warming. This is significant because the computer climate models predict that man-made global warming should be occurring fastest at the poles. Prior studies had found that most of the southern continent has been cooling for decades, rather than warming. The press release describing the new study explains:

The researchers devised a statistical technique that uses data from satellites and from Antarctic weather stations to make a new estimate of temperature trends.

Using their new statistical technique the researchers report:

For years it was believed that a relatively small area known as the Antarctic Peninsula was getting warmer, but that the rest of the continent -- including West Antarctica, the ice sheet most susceptible to potential future collapse -- was cooling…

The study found that warming in West Antarctica exceeded one-tenth of a degree Celsius per decade for the last 50 years and more than offset the cooling in East Antarctica.

Case closed? Some climate researchers aren't so sure about the new research. The Associated Press reports:

"This looks like a pretty good analysis, but I have to say I remain somewhat skeptical," Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in an e-mail. "It is hard to make data where none exist."

USA Today quotes University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) climatologist John Christy, who is the chief investigator using NOAA satellite temperature data:

"One must be very cautious with such results because they have no real way to be validated," says atmospheric scientist John Christy…. "In other words, we will never know what the temperature was over the very large missing areas that this technique attempts to fill in so that it can be tested back through time."

In other climate news, the National Climatic Data Center reports that 2008 was th 8th warmest year since 1880:

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature from January-December was 0.88 degree F (0.49 degree C) above the 20th Century average of 57.0 degrees F (13.9 degrees C). Since 1880, the annual combined global land and ocean surface temperature has increased at a rate of 0.09 degree F (0.05 degree C) / decade. This rate has increased to 0.29 degree F (0.16 degree C) / decade over the past 30 years.

Interestingly, the trend in global temperatures has been basically flat in recent years. See below for chart showing UAH satellite data:

UAH monthly temperature anomalies

Anomalies 1998-2008; University of Alabama (UAH)

In any case, the whole NCDC release can be found here