Recently, researchers have been baffled by Antarctica's sluggish response to greenhouse gases, stating that the melt off should be far more advanced than it is. However, today they may have found the answer, though it spells bad news for other nations.
The globally rising greenhouse gas levels have been proven to be responsible for the increasingly stronger winds over the Indian Ocean. This is fantastic news for Antarctica as it has been keeping the ice caps colder and slowing the melt off. However, the trade off is that while Antarctica is cooled, Australia has been becoming hotter and drier, a problem that will only continue to increase.
Nerilie Abram, of the Australian National University's Research School of Earth Sciences, and colleagues outline their findings in Nature Climate Change. After looking over the patterns of the climate in the southern hemisphere, they report that the Southern Ocean winds are normally what deliver rain to South Australia. However, now the winds are being pushed further south they are causing a colder Antarctica, but little in the way of rain for the parched continent above.
This team has looked over the climate observations for the past 25 years and coined a new meteorological phenomenon called the Southern Annular Mode, marking the pattern of climate variability south of the equator compared to north of it. Why the drastic change further south? There are a few geophysical reasons for the difference such as a higher population in the northern hemisphere as well as the North Pole being covered by water. By contrast, south of the equator has less people and an enormous landmass at the South Pole--Antarctica, cold and drawing in the wind. Essentially, scientists believe that because there is not as much greenhouse gas being emitted in the southern atmosphere that the planet is trying to right itself. However, it seems even with the winds effort to keep the planet cool, the winds of change are beginning to blow over Antarctica as it is beginning to lose ice at an accelerating rate.