Feeds

Boffins say hot air makes Antarctica COLDER

Wind vortex shrouds southern continent in its own frigid zone as Australia dries out

The next step in data security

The Antarctic anomaly – that it's warming slower than the rest of the world – could actually be driven by climate change, according to new modelling from the Australian National University (ANU). The research also suggests that southern Australia, particularly in the west, will get less rain as a result.

Climate change denier sites have long seized upon Antarctica's slower warming as evidence against planetary warming, but paradoxically, what's happening to the globe as a whole is what's keeping warmer air away from the southern continent.

According to the ANU research team, led by Nerilie Abram in the university's School of Earth Sciences, the wind vortex now surrounding Antarctica is the strongest in the last thousand years. Those Southern Ocean winds are blocking warmer air from reaching the continent, the researchers say – but at the same time, they're thieving rainfall from Western Australia.

The work is based on atmospheric carbon that's been trapped in the ice, with ice core samples allowing the group to test wind models stretching back 1,000 years.

Their paper, published in Nature Climate Change, (abstract here), looked at how the climatic phenomenon known as the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) has changed, based on the ice core samples, measurements from tree rings and lakes in South America, and more recent data collected since the blossoming of Antarctic science 70 years ago.

Abram's team ran simulations of the last millennium in eight different climate models, with all the models agreeing that SAM winds would increase as of 1940. As New Scientist explains, the winds could be boosted by a strong temperature gradient between the northern hemisphere and the southern, because the former has more continents and is warming faster.

That's bad news for Western Australia. The strengthening SAM had been attributed to the hole in the ozone layer. If that were the sole cause, then there would be hope that as the ozone hole shrinks, Western Australia (which has lost 20 per cent of its rainfall since the 1960s) might see fewer droughts.

However, if greenhouse gases – which are on the rise – are also a driver of the stronger SAM, then the west of the continent will stay dry.

“As the westerly winds are getting tighter they’re actually trapping more of the cold air over Antarctica,” Abram says in the ANU's release.

“As greenhouse gases continue to rise we’ll get fewer storms chased up into Australia”.

Meanwhile, western Antarctican peninsulas that are outside the vortex are warming right on cue. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.