The influence of global warming on Antarctica is uncertain. In an earlier post, I reported the results of a 2014 research study that concluded West Antarctica and the small Antarctic Peninsula, which points toward Argentina, had warmed appreciably from 1958 to 2012, but East Antarctica had barely heated up at all over the same period. The warming rates were 0.22 degrees Celsius (0.40 degrees Fahrenheit) and 0.33 degrees Celsius (0.59 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, for West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula respectively – both faster than the global average.
But a 2021 study reaches very different conclusions, namely that both West Antarctica and East Antarctica cooled between 1979 and 2018, while the Antarctic Peninsula warmed but at a much lower rate than found in the 2014 study. Both studies are based on reanalyses of limited Antarctic temperature data from mostly coastal meteorological stations, in an attempt to interpolate temperatures in the more inaccessible interior regions of the continent.
This later study appears to carry more weight as it incorporates data from 41 stations, whereas the 2014 study includes only 15 stations. The 2021 study concludes that East Antarctica and West Antarctica have cooled since 1979 at rates of 0.70 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade and 0.42 degrees Celsius (0.76 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, respectively, with the Antarctic Peninsula having warmed at 0.18 degrees Celsius (0.32 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade.
It’s the possible cooling of West Antarctica that’s most significant, because of ice loss from thinning glaciers. Ice loss and gain rates from Antarctica since 2003, measured by NASA’s ICESat satellite, are illustrated in the next figure, in which dark reds and purples show ice loss and blues show gain.
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