Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Global warming brings more snow to Antarctica

17.03.2015

Although it sounds paradoxical, rising temperatures might result in more snowfall in Antarctica. Each degree Celsius of regional warming could increase snowfall on the ice continent by about 5 percent, an international team of scientists led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research now quantified.

Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, their work builds on high-quality ice-core data and fundamental laws of physics captured in global and regional climate model simulations. The results provide a missing link for future projections of Antarctica’s critical contribution to sea-level rise. However, the increase in snowfall will not save Antarctica from losing ice.

“Warmer air transports more moisture and hence produces more precipitation – in cold Antarctica this takes the form of snowfall,” lead author Katja Frieler explains. “We have now pulled a number of various lines of evidence together and find a very consistent result: Temperature increase means more snowfall on Antarctica,” says Frieler. “For every degree of regional warming, snowfall increases by about 5 percent.”

To narrow down future snowfall on Antarctica to a robust estimate, the scientists from Potsdam collaborated with colleagues in the USA and the Netherlands. “Ice-cores drilled in different parts of Antarctica provide data that can help us understand the future,” says Peter U. Clark from the Oregon State University, USA. “Information about the snowfall spanning the large temperature change during the last deglaciation 21,000 to 10,000 years ago tells us what we can expect during the next century.”

The researchers combined the ice-core data with simulations of the Earth’s climate history and comprehensive future projections by different climate models, and were able to pin down temperature and accumulation changes in warming Antarctica.

**Double paradox: Warming brings more snowfall, more snowfall enhances ice loss**

“Under global warming, the Antarctic ice sheet with its huge volume could become a major contributor to future sea-level rise, thus potentially affecting millions of people living in coastal areas,” Frieler says. Hence the interest of quantifying snowfall which would make the ice sheet grow in height and gain mass. Unfortunately, building on a previous PIK study, the scientists found that additional snowfall will also increase the ice flow to the ocean, partly countering the gain.

“Snow piling up on the ice is heavy and presses down – the higher the ice, the more pressure. Because additional snowfall elevates the grounded ice-sheet on the Antarctic continent but less so the floating ice shelves at its shore, the ice flows more rapidly into the ocean and contributes to sea level,” co-author Ricarda Winkelmann explains. Accounting for this effect a 5-percent increase in snowfall on Antarctica would mean a calculative drop in sea-level of about 3 cm after 100 years. Other processes, however, will effect a rise in sea-level in the end. For instance, already rather little warming of the ocean could cause ice at the Antarctic shore to break off more easily, hence more ice mass from the continent would flow out and discharge into the ocean.

**Antarctica is a key factor to future sea level rise**

"So, if we look at the big picture these new findings don’t change the fact that Antarctica will lose more ice than it will gain, and that it will contribute to future sea-level change,” says co-author Anders Levermann, who is also one of the lead authors of the sea-level rise chapter in the latest report of the IPCC. “For decision makers in coastal areas it is vital to know how much sea-level rise can still be avoided by limiting global warming, and how quickly we will have to adapt to the unavoidable – the role of Antarctica is key to those considerations. Our findings provide another piece in the puzzle that we need to quantify future sea-level rise.”

Article: Frieler, K., Clark, P.U., He, F., Buizert, C., Reese, R., Ligtenberg, S.R.M., van den Broeke, M.R., Winkelmann, R., Levermann, A. (2015): Consistent evidence of increasing Antarctic accumulation with warming. Nature Climate Change [doi: 10.1038/nclimate2574]

Weblink to the article once it is published: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2574

Weblink to a previous study on more ice loss through snowfall on Antarctica: Winkelmann, R., Levermann, A., Martin, M.A., Frieler, K. (2012): Increased future ice discharge from Antarctica owing to higher snowfall. Nature [doi:10.1038/nature11616]
https://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/press-releases/archive/2012/more-ice-loss-throug...

Weblink to a previous study on Antarctica's contribution to sea-level change: Levermann, A., Winkelmann, R., Nowicki, S, Fastook, J.L., Frieler, K., Greve, R., Hellmer, H.H., Martin, M.A., Meinshausen, M., Mengel, M., Payne, A.J., Pollard, D., Sato, T., Timmermann, R., Wang, W.L., Bindschadler, R.A. (2014): Projecting Antarctic ice discharge using response functions from SeaRISE ice-sheet models. Earth System Dynamics, 5, 271-293 [DOI: 10.5194/esd-5-271-2014]
https://www.pik-potsdam.de/aktuelles/pressemitteilungen/antarktis-koennte-meeres...

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-Mail: press@pik-potsdam.de
Twitter: @PIK_Climate

Jonas Viering | Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>