Absence of 21st century warming on Antarctic Peninsula consistent with natural variability

Since the 1950s, research stations on the Antarctic Peninsula have recorded some of the largest increases in near-surface air temperature in the Southern Hemisphere1. This warming has contributed to the regional retreat of glaciers2, disintegration of floating ice shelves3 and a ‘greening’ through the expansion in range of various flora4. Several interlinked processes have been suggested as contributing to the warming, including stratospheric ozone depletion5, local sea-ice loss6, an increase in westerly winds5, 7, and changes in the strength and location of low–high-latitude atmospheric teleconnections8, 9. Here we use a stacked temperature record to show an absence of regional warming since the late 1990s. The annual mean temperature has decreased at a statistically significant rate, with the most rapid cooling during the Austral summer. Temperatures have decreased as a consequence of a greater frequency of cold, east-to-southeasterly winds, resulting from more cyclonic conditions in the northern Weddell Sea associated with a strengthening mid-latitude jet. These circulation changes have also increased the advection of sea ice towards the east coast of the peninsula, amplifying their effects. Our findings cover only 1% of the Antarctic continent and emphasize that decadal temperature changes in this region are not primarily associated with the drivers of global temperature change but, rather, reflect the extreme natural internal variability of the regional atmospheric circulation.


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Authors: Turner, John ORCIDORCID record for John Turner, Lu, Hua ORCIDORCID record for Hua Lu, White, Ian, King, John C. ORCIDORCID record for John C. King, Phillips, Tony ORCIDORCID record for Tony Phillips, Hosking, J. Scott ORCIDORCID record for J. Scott Hosking, Bracegirdle, Thomas J. ORCIDORCID record for Thomas J. Bracegirdle, Marshall, Gareth J. ORCIDORCID record for Gareth J. Marshall, Mulvaney, Robert ORCIDORCID record for Robert Mulvaney, Deb, Pranab

On this site: Gareth Marshall, Hua Lu, Ian White, Scott Hosking, John King, John Turner, Pranab Deb, Robert Mulvaney, Thomas Bracegirdle, Tony Phillips
1 July, 2016
Nature / 535
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