Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Central Western Antarctica - One of the world's Most Rapidly Warming Regions

The West Antarctic ice sheet is known to be contributing to rising sea level, as indicated by clear evidence, but in recent decades the temperature changes in West Antarctica have remained uncertain. According to the authors1 warming has probably occurred in West Antarctica since the 1950s, but the magnitude, seasonality and spatial extent of this warming has not been agreed upon by researchers, primarily because observations of long-term, near-surface temperatures are restricted to Byrd Station, central West Antarctica, and this data set has substantial gaps. In this article the authors1 present a temperature record that is complete for Byrd Station, with corrections of observations and global data reanalysis and spatial interpolation has filled the gaps. Between 1985 and 2010 the record has revealed a linear increase in annual temperatures, indicating that over this period there has been a temperature increase of 2.4 ± 1.2oC, which means central West Antarctica is one of the fastest warming regions in the world. Reports of West Antarctica warming, in annual average and in the austral spring and winter, has been confirmed by these results, though the temperature increase was found to be substantially higher than expected. The authors report statistically significant warming during the austral summer, especially in December-January, which is the peak of the melting season, a situation that differs from previous reports. If the summer temperatures continue to rise it could lead to more frequent and extensive episodes of surface melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet. The authors1 suggest their results argue for the establishment of a robust network of meteorological stations in the region.


  1. Bromwich, David H., Julien P. Nicolas, Andrew J. Monaghan, Matthew A. Lazzara, Linda M. Keller, George A. Weidner, and Aaron B. Wilson. "Central West Antarctica among the Most Rapidly Warming Regions on Earth." Nature Geosci 6, no. 2 (02//print 2013): 139-45.
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last Updated 11/02/2013

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