Posted by Mark Halper

Southern exposure. Global warming is not sparing Antarctica.

Here’s an argument for nuclear power: A portion of Antarctica is warming twice as fast as previously thought, a trend that threatens to accelerate rising sea levels.

The finding would seem to call out for a low-CO2 energy future such as what nuclear power could provide.

Scientists writing in the new edition of Nature Geoscience report that the average annual temperature in central West Antarctica rose by 2.4 degrees – give or take 1.2 degrees – between 1958 and 2010.

An abstract on the journal’s website says that new interpretations of data from Byrd Station establish central West Antarctica as “one of the fastest warming regions globally.”

One of its most startling findings was that rising summer temperatures could exacerbate melts.

“There is clear evidence that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is contributing to sea level rise,” the abstract notes. “A continued rise in summer temperatures could lead to more frequent and extensive episodes of surface melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.”

The authors – led by David H. Bromwich and Julien P. Nicolas from The Ohio State University – note, “We confirm previous reports of West Antarctic warming, in annual average and in austral (southern hemisphere) spring and winter, but find substantially larger temperature increases. In contrast to previous studies, we report statistically significant warming during austral summer, particularly in December–January, the peak of the melting season.”


In a summary of the full Nature Geoscience report, the BBC reports that the temperature rise is double what scientists had previously thought.

The air temperature increase means ice is more likely to melt on the surface as well as from below – which it has been doing in response to increasing ocean temperatures, the BBC notes.

“What we’re seeing is one of the strongest warming signals on Earth,” says Andrew Monaghan, a co-author and scientist at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research, in the BBC story.

Many experts believe that global warming is man-made and linked to CO2 emitted by fossil fuels.  An increase in the share of nuclear and renewables in electricity and heat generation would help alleviate the warming trend, they say.

Monaghan says that the study does not confirm the man-made nature of global warming.

“The jury is still out on that,” he notes. “That piece of research has not been done. My opinion is that it probably is, but I can’t say that definitively.”

I’m writing this blog from a deluged England, which these days could go by the name Lake England. I have little trouble believing the man-made angle, and that nuclear could help cool things down.

Photo: Vincent van Zeijst via Wikimedia. 


  1. Martin Kral says:

    I don’t buy into the fear mongering from either side of the issue on global warming, a.k.a. – climate change. I support thorium energy because it is the most efficient zero-CO2 power source that is practical now, it we want it.

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