Natural Climate Change in Antarctica Is No News!

  • Date: 18/06/20
  • Dr David Whitehouse, GWPF Science Editor

Ten days ago the journal Science issued an embargoed press release about a forthcoming paper that suggested the warming observed in West Antarctica was due to natural climatic variability.

West Antarctica has always been looked on by alarmists as being the southern example of polar temperature amplification – a phenomenon predicted by most climate change models. The Arctic temperature amplification is very apparent so there must be an Antarctic equivalent, and there it is.

But while scientists have been well aware that Antarctica is warming asymmetrically, with West Antarctica experiencing more than East Antarctica and frequently attributed to climate change, the underlying causes of this phenomenon have been poorly understood, and the suggestion that West Antarctica may be experiencing natural warming has been suggested before though not taken up very enthusiastically, if at all.

This new paper, “The internal origin of the west-east asymmetry of Antarctic climate change”, expresses the dilemma well. In explaining the asymmetry, it suggests factors such as atmosphere-ocean feedbacks along the coast of West Antarctica and the shape of the Antarctic terrain combine to create a pattern of upper troposphere circulation over the West Antarctic subcontinent that flows opposite to the Earth’s rotation.

Fig. 2 Two leading modes of the annual-mean Antarctic surface temperature and their characteristics during 1958 to 2012 in the CMIP5 historical simulations. Source: Sang-Yoon Jun et al., 2020

The researchers conclude,

The current west-east asymmetry of Antarctic surface climate change is undoubtedly of natural origin because no external factors (e.g., orbital or anthropogenic factors) contribute to the asymmetric mode.”

They add that the consistent pattern of warmer sea surface temperatures over the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Antarctic seas suggests that regional sea surface temperature anomalies around Antarctica are a driving factor behind the continent’s asymmetrical warming. Paleoclimate datasets revealed variability in surface air temperatures spanning multiple decades, suggesting climate fluctuations in the tropics, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, may also contribute to the discrepancies in warming rates between both subcontinents.

Overall, it’s a fascinating paper especially given the concern about the region’s ice decline leading to present and future sea level change. But unless you look at two or three specialised outlets you won’t have heard about it.

The embargoed information from Science journal is normally released four days before the embargo is lifted on Thursday evening UK time. Thousands of journalists around the world see it as Science along with Nature are the world’s leading science journals. So why is it that no mainstream news media covered this important story? It’s not as though there were any other pressing environment stories to eclipse it.

What it demonstrates is the asymmetry in environment and science reporting. If the story confirms the dire news that anthropogenic climate change affects everything and is visible anywhere it’s much more likely to be trumpeted by the mainstream media than if it explains some of the climatic changes we see is due to mother nature.

Not every change we see is attributable to human influence. We still have to deal with the consequences. Accurate knowledge is the first step because if we don’t understand the cause of particular climatic changes we will waste a lot of time and effort combatting things we never caused and have no power to influence.

Feedback: David.Whitehouse@thegwpf.com

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