An Antarctic sea ice study has found a continuing expansion of ice since 2000, not melting, reported the Washington Post,
in a trend that baffles climate change supporters.
Scientists don’t fully understand why Antarctic sea ice is growing, said the Post, but the study suggested the phenomenon results from natural variability in the climate system. in this case changes in the tropical Pacific Ocean that reverberate globally.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research
said the study released this month found evidence of a "negative phase" in what is called the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, which is characterized by cooler sea surface temperatures in the tropic eastern Pacific.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
"The climate we experience during any given decade is some combination of naturally occurring variability and the planet's response to increasing greenhouse gases," said NCAR scientist Gerald Meehl, lead author of the study. "It's never all one or the other, but the combination, that is important to understand."
The new study said the Antarctica ice increase actually started slowly in 1979, but the rate sped up "nearly five-fold between 2000 and 2014, following the IPO transition to a negative phase in 1999."
The increase in Antarctic sea ice continued a trend that NASA
noted back in 2014. The space agency said then that key variables for the increased ice there included the atmospheric and oceanic conditions, along with the effects of an icy land surface, changing atmospheric chemistry, the ozone hole, and months of darkness.
"There hasn't been one explanation yet that I'd say has become a consensus, where people say, 'We've nailed it, this is why it's happening,'" said Claire Parkinson, a senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
"Our models are improving, but they're far from perfect. One by one, scientists are figuring out that particular variables are more important than we thought years ago, and one by one those variables are getting incorporated into the models."
The NCAR scientists said they believe the IPO started to change from negative to positive in 2014, which in the future could lead to warmer eastern Pacific Ocean surfaces temperatures.
"As the IPO transitions to positive, the increase of Antarctic sea ice extent should slow and perhaps start to show signs of retreat when averaged over the next 10 years or so," said Meehl.
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