Example of North Pole Sea Ice Decrease: This image shows that sea ice in the North Pole has been on the decline, with the most significant loss in the past three years. This occurrence runs counter to the paper’s new finding that sea ice in the Antarctic’s (or South Pole) Southern Ocean appears to be on the increase. Credit: NASA
A new NASA-funded study finds that predicted increases in precipitation due to warmer air temperatures from greenhouse gas emissions may actually increase sea ice volume in the Antarctic’s Southern Ocean. This adds new evidence of potential asymmetry between the two poles, and may be an indication that climate change processes may have different impact on different areas of the globe.
"Most people have heard of climate change and how rising air temperatures are melting glaciers and sea ice in the Arctic," said Dylan C. Powell, co-author of the paper and a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. "However, findings from our simulations suggest a counterintuitive phenomenon. Some of the melt in the Arctic may be offset by increases in sea ice volume in the Antarctic."
The researchers used satellite observations for the first time, specifically from the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager, to assess snow depth on sea ice, and included the satellite observations in their model. As a result, they improved prediction of precipitation rates. By incorporating satellite observations into this new method, the researchers achieved more stable and realistic precipitation data than the typically variable data found in the polar regions. The paper was published in the June issue of the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research.
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