Title: How could a difference of 0.5°C in global warming modify the mean and extreme climate conditions around Antarctica?

Authors: Ramiro I. Saurral, Gabriela A. Raggio, Carla N. Gulizia

Journal: International Journal of Climatology

URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/joc.6566

 

Recently, active debate in the climate scientific community has focused on the relative benefits to our planet of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above the global-mean preindustrial conditions, compared to a net warming of 2°C. In this article, Saurral et al. (2020) studied the plausible effects over the climate of the Antarctic continent encompassing both the mean and extreme climate conditions. Results suggest that global warming will unanimously lead to increasing temperatures over Antarctica, which will be accompanied by a reduction in sea ice around the continent. However, significant variations would arise when scenarios of 1.5°C and 2°C warming are considered. Under a 1.5oC warming scenario, these include a smaller reduction in the frequency of extremely cold days over the continent, as well as a reduced alteration in the strong westerly winds over the Southern Ocean. Regarding sea ice, both scenarios also suggest significantly different drops in the amount of ice surrounding Antarctica, with the largest variations taking place over the Amundsen-Bellingshausen Sea area. It should be noted that such changes would not only affect the climate of Antarctica, but other regions of the Southern Hemisphere as well. Such is the case for South America, where the variations in sea ice could lead to changes in the frequency and strength of cold fronts, as well as in mechanisms related to precipitation and storm formation.

 

Further research is still needed to underpin some of the physical mechanisms behind the aforementioned changes. Still, the take-home message from this research is that every effort to limit global warming would be beneficial to sustain the observed climate conditions of Antarctica and likely to help as well in the conservation of biodiversity within those high latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere.