Rapid warming of the Antarctic Peninsula is bringing temperatures close to the warmth that followed the end of the last ice age, says lead researcher Richard Mulvaney, a paleoclimatologist with the British Antarctic Survey.
(AP Photo/Australian Antarctic Division)
The Antarctic Peninsula, which juts out about 1,000 miles (1,610 kilometers) from the western flank of the frozen continent, is one of the fastest warming places on Earth.
In the past 50 years, the air temperature has increased by about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). While this rate of warming is highly unusual, it is not unprecedented, indicates a new study.
The rapid, modern warming is bringing the peninsula's temperatures close to the warmth that followed the end of the last ice age, lead researcher Richard Mulvaney, a paleoclimatologist with the British Antarctic Survey, told LiveScience.
"We are now approaching the temperatures last seen 12,000 years ago," he wrote in an email.
Mulvaney and colleagues predict continued warming will have serious implications for the ice shelves that jut from the peninsula over the ocean. In recent decades, ice shelves at the northern part have begun collapsing into the sea. Continued warming puts ice shelves further south at risk, they say.
[The Antarctic warming is paralleled by fast-melting ice in the Arctic, as that thaw approaches a new record]
Back in time
To look back at millennia of temperature history for the peninsula, a research team extracted a 1,200-foot (364-meter) ice core from the summit of an island mountain near the northern tip of the peninsula.
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