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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  February 2011  /  Shifting influences on Antarctic climate

Shifting influences on Antarctic climate

Amelia Shevenell co-authors Nature Paper

Shifting influences on Antarctic climate

Dr Amelia Shevenell has co-authored a paper in the 9 February issue of Nature on long term temperature trends in the Antarctic Peninsula. This is currently one of the fastest-warming locations on Earth, but its long-term variability has remained unclear. Amelia and colleagues have used the TEX86 proxy, a palaeothermometer that tracks membrane lipids of the marine picoplankton Crenarchaeota in ocean sediment cores collected by the Ocean Drilling Program, to show that a long-term cooling of about 4 °C has occurred in waters near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula over the past 12,000 years. This is consistent with orbitally controlled changes in insolation. Shorter-term variability in temperature, however, seems to have been strongly influenced by the position of the westerly winds. This work suggests that the present influence of the El-Nino Southern Oscillation system on the Antarctic Peninsula is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating to the late Holocene.

Press coverage has included comment on NBC’s website, MSNBC, quoting Reuters, reporting Amelia’s view that the evidence does not make it possible to work out how far temperatures would have to rise to trigger more ice shelf collapse or wider melting. In a region of strong air-sea-ice interactions affecting the entire globe, however, Dr James Bendle (University of Glasgow), points out the value of the evidence in working out the wider influence of trans-Pacific weather patterns on the temperatites of waters around the Antarctic.

A. E. Shevenell, A. E. Ingalls, E. W. Domack, C. Kelly., Holocene Southern Ocean surface temperature variability west of the Antarctic Peninsula, Nature, 470, 250-254 (9 February 2011) doi:10.1038/nature09751 Letter



And for a News and Views Commentary by Dr Bendle:



Antarctic Peninsula (E. W. Domack)

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