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A comparison of Arctic and Antarctic climate change, present and future

  • John E. Walsh (a1)


Ongoing climate variations in the Arctic and Antarctic pose an apparent paradox. In contrast to the large warming and loss of sea ice in the Arctic in recent decades, Antarctic temperatures and sea ice show little change except for the Antarctic Peninsula. However, model simulations indicate that the Arctic changes have been shaped largely by low-frequency variations of the atmospheric circulation, superimposed on a greenhouse warming that is apparent in model simulations when ensemble averages smooth out the circulation-driven variability of the late 20th century. By contrast, the Antarctic changes of recent decades appear to be shaped by ozone depletion and an associated strengthening of the southern annular mode of the atmospheric circulation. While the signature of greenhouse-driven change is projected to emerge from the natural variability during the present century, the emergence of a statistically significant greenhouse signal may be slower than in other regions. Models suggest that feedbacks from retreating sea ice will make autumn and winter the seasons of the earliest emergence of the greenhouse signal in both Polar Regions. Priorities for enhanced robustness of the Antarctic climate simulations are the inclusion of ozone chemistry and the realistic simulation of water vapour over the Antarctic Ice Sheet.


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Keynote presentation at the SCAR/IASC Open Science Conference, St Petersburg, Russia, 2008.



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A comparison of Arctic and Antarctic climate change, present and future

  • John E. Walsh (a1)


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