Increasing Antarctic snowfall may offset sea-level rise

Watts Up With That?

From THE EARTH INSTITUTE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

By mid-century, more Antarctic snowfall may help offset sea-level rise

Increasing precipitation masked by natural variability — for now

Antarctica's annual mean surface mass balance estimated using CMIP5 climate models. Future snowfall increases will also likely be largest around the edges of the continent, where storms blow in and temperatures tend to be warmer. CREDIT Previdi and Polvani, 2016. Antarctica’s annual mean surface mass balance estimated using CMIP5 climate models. Future snowfall increases will also likely be largest around the edges of the continent, where storms blow in and temperatures tend to be warmer. CREDIT Previdi and Polvani, 2016.

When Antarctica’s air temperature rises, moisture in the atmosphere increases. That should mean more snowfall on the frozen continent. So why hasn’t that trend become evident in Antarctica’s surface mass balance as climate models predict?

In a new study, scientists used historical records and climate simulations to examine that question. They found that the effect of rising temperatures on snowfall has so far been overshadowed by Antarctica’s large natural climate variability, which comes from random, chaotic variations in the polar weather. By mid-century, however…

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