By Richard Black | BBC
The continent of Antarctica is warming up in step with the rest of the world, according to a new analysis.
Scientists say data from satellites and weather stations indicate a warming of about 0.6C over the last 50 years.
Writing in the journal Nature, they say the trend is “difficult to explain” without the effect of rising greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, scientists in Antarctica say a major ice shelf is about to break away from the continent.
The Wilkins Ice Shelf is said to be “hanging by a thread” from the Antarctic Peninsula, the strip of land pointing from the white continent towards the southern tip of South America.
Most of Antarctica’s scientific stations are located along the peninsula, and scientists have known for many years that this portion of the continent is getting warmer.
It’s hard to think of any situation where increased greenhouse gases would not lead to warming in Antarctica
Dr Drew Shindell, Nasa
But trends across the bulk of the continent have been much harder to discern, mainly because data from land stations is scarce.
It is somewhat insulated from the rest of the world’s weather systems by winds and ocean currents that circulate around the perimeter.
In the new analysis, a team of US scientists combined data from land stations with satellite readings
“We have at least 25 years of data from satellites, and satellites have the huge advantage that they can see the whole continent,” said Eric Steig from the University of Washington in Seattle.
“But the [land] stations have the advantage that they go back much further in time.
“So we combined the two; and what we found, in a nutshell, is that there is warming across the whole continent, it’s stronger in winter and spring but it is there in all seasons.”
They conclude that the eastern region of the continent, which is larger and colder than the western portion, is warming at 0.1C per decade, and the west at 0.17C per decade – faster than the global average.
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