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Non-annular atmospheric circulation change induced by stratospheric ozone depletion and its role in the recent increase of Antarctic sea ice extent

Increased growth in Antarctic sea ice during the past 30 years is a result of changing weather patterns caused by the ozone hole, according to new research. Scientists from BAS and NASA say that while there has been a dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice, Antarctic sea ice has increased by a small amount as a result of the ozone hole delaying the impact of greenhouse gas increases on the climate of the continent.

The new research helps explain why observed changes in the amount of sea-ice cover are so different in both polar regions. Using satellite images of sea ice and computer models the scientists discovered that the ozone hole has strengthened surface winds around Antarctica and deepened the storms in the South Pacific area of the Southern Ocean that surrounds the continent. This resulted in greater flow of cold air over the Ross Sea (West Antarctica) leading to more ice production in this region. Satellite images and computer models reveal that the ozone hole has strengthened surface winds around the Southern Ocean.

The satellite data reveal the variation in sea-ice cover around the entire Antarctic continent. Whilst there has been a small increase of sea ice during the autumn around the coast of East Antarctica, the largest changes are observed in West Antarctica. Sea ice has been lost to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula – a region that has warmed by almost 3°C in the past 50 years. Further west, sea-ice cover over the Ross Sea has increased.

Find link to the full paper in the NERC Open Research Archive

Authors

Turner, J., Comiso, J.C., Marhsall, G.J., Lachlan-Cope, T.A., Bracegirdle, T.J., Maksym, T., Meredith, M.P., Wang, Z.M., Orr, A

Publication

Geophysical Research Letters, 36, No. 8, L08502, doi:10.1029/2009GL037524, 5p., 2009