Southward migration of the zero-degree isotherm latitude over the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Peninsula: cryospheric, biotic and societal implications

The seasonal movement of the zero-degree isotherm across the Southern Ocean and Antarctic Peninsula drives major changes in the physical and biological processes around maritime Antarctica. These include spatial and temporal shifts in precipitation phase, snow accumulation and melt, thawing and freezing of the active layer of the permafrost, glacier mass balance variations, sea ice mass balance and changes in physiological processes of biodiversity. Here, we characterize the historical seasonal southward movement of the monthly near-surface zero-degree isotherm latitude (ZIL), and quantify the velocity of migration in the context of climate change using climate reanalyses and projections. From 1957 to 2020, the ZIL exhibited a significant southward shift of 16.8 km decade−1 around Antarctica and of 23.8 km decade−1 in the Antarctic Peninsula, substantially faster than the global mean velocity of temperature change of 4.2 km decade−1, with only a small fraction being attributed to the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). CMIP6 models reproduce the trends observed from 1957 to 2014 and predict a further southward migration around Antarctica of 24 ± 12 km decade−1 and 50 ± 19 km decade−1 under the SSP2-4.5 and SSP5-8.5 scenarios, respectively. The southward migration of the ZIL is expected to have major impacts on the cryosphere, especially on the precipitation phase, snow accumulation and in peripheral glaciers of the Antarctic Peninsula, with more uncertain changes on permafrost, ice sheets and shelves, and sea ice. Longer periods of temperatures above 0 °C threshold will extend active biological periods in terrestrial ecosystems and will reduce the extent of oceanic ice cover, changing phenologies as well as areas of productivity in marine ecosystems, especially those located on the sea ice edge.


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Authors: González-Herrero, Sergi, Navarro, Francisco, Pertierra, Luis R., Oliva, Marc, Dadic, Ruzica, Peck, Lloyd ORCIDORCID record for Lloyd Peck, Lehning, Michael

On this site: Lloyd Peck
24 November, 2023
Science of the Total Environment / 912
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