Antarctic Snowfall Has Doubled Since 1850

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Antarctic Snowfall Has Doubled Since 1850

Snow accumulation rising like a rocket

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21 Jan 08 - A new paper has just appeared in Geophysical Research Letters entitled "A doubling in snow accumulation in the western Antarctic Peninsula since 1850." The article is by scientists with the British Antarctic Survey and the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada.

As seen in the figure below, snow accumulation has been rising like a rocket. "Annual accumulation has more than doubled in the last 150 years," the authors state. "At the beginning of the record annual accumulation is relatively stable until about 1930 when it begins to increase steadily. 

Following a slight reduction in accumulation in the late 1960s, the most rapid increase occurs in the latter part of the record. For the post-1980 period even the lowest annual accumulation values are still greater than the highest accumulation values from the first half of the record (1855–1924)." This huge increase may be unique to the Gomez area, but other cores sites certainly show increases in accumulation as well.

Figure 1. Annual accumulation at Gomez (dashed blue) and running decadal mean accumulation at Gomez (solid blue), Dyer Plateau (red), James Ross Island (black) and ITASE01_05 (green) in meters of water equivalent per year (mweq y-1) between 1850 and 2006 (from Thomas et al., 2008)

So while we’ve heard recent reports about Antarctica losing ice, here we again find evidence to the contrary. Not only is there no evidence of melting at the Gomez site, snow is accumulating there at an amazingly high rate.

Magazine covers may have wonderful pictures of melting of the Antarctic, but IPCC in their 2007 report clearly states "Antarctic sea ice extent continues to show inter-annual variability and localized changes but no statistically significant average trends, consistent with the lack of warming reflected in atmospheric temperatures averaged across the region." 

In fact, Antarctic sea ice extent has recently set record highs for both total areal extent as well as total extent anomaly (see chart above). Furthermore, IPCC tells the world "Current global model studies project that the Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting and is expected to gain in mass due to increased snowfall."

Ref: Thomas, E. R., G. J. Marshall, and J. R. McConnell, 2008. A doubling in snow accumulation in the western Antarctic Peninsula since 1850. Geophysical Research Letters, 35, L01706, doi:10.1029/2007GL032529.
Filed under: Polar, Antarctic
Thanks to Ian Kellman for this info


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