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Antarctic Peninsula’s melt season lengthens dramatically

Warmer temps linked with ice shelf break-ups

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A longer melt season along the Antarctic Peninsula has consequences for wildlife — and for the long-term fate of the coastal ice shelves. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The melt season on the Antarctic Peninsula is growing longer — in some cases it has doubled, and several major ice shelf breakup events in the region coincided with longer than usual melt seasons, according to a a new study that analyzed data from 30 weather stations.

“We found a significant increase in the length of the melting season at most of the stations with the longest temperature records,” said Dr. Nick Barrand, who carried out the research while working for the British Antarctic Survey. “At one station the average length of the melt season almost doubled between 1948 and 2011,” said Barrand, who now works for the University of Birmingham. Continue reading

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Study finds link between El Niño and warming along the Antarctic Peninsula during parts of the Holocene

Ocean-driven warming along western Antarctic Peninsula may be partly driven by natural climate variability

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Ice remnants along the shore of the Antarctic Peninsula. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Temperature oscillations in the tropical Pacific have historically had a significant effect on the climate of the western Antarctic Peninsula, according to scientists who studied a 12,000-year fossil record to measure how much glacial ice melted into the sea during that span.

The research is important because the western Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming regions on the planet, and the fastest warming part of the Southern Hemisphere. The ice sheets of the region may be vulnerable to collapse, and would raise sea level by several meters if the melt.

The study, led by Cardiff University researchers, measured oxygen isotopes in microscopic marine algae fossils to trace glacial ice entering the ocean along the western Antarctic Peninsula. Based on the data, the study concluded that the atmospheric temperatures had a bigger factor than oceanic circulation on warming along the western Antarctic Peninsula than oceanic circulation in the late Holocene (from 3,500-250 years ago). Continue reading

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