Antarctic 3x warming – ‘complicated’ link to climate change

A study led by Kyle Clem from Victoria University has found that the South Pole is warming nearly three times faster than the global average. This is linked to tropical variability, and the complexity may be related to climate change but may also help mask it.

The study: Record warming at the South Pole during the past three decades

Over the last three decades, the South Pole has experienced a record-high statistically significant warming of 0.61 ± 0.34 °C per decade, more than three times the global average. Here, we use an ensemble of climate model experiments to show this recent warming lies within the upper bounds of the simulated range of natural variability.

The warming resulted from a strong cyclonic anomaly in the Weddell Sea caused by increasing sea surface temperatures in the western tropical Pacific. This circulation, coupled with a positive polarity of the Southern Annular Mode, advected warm and moist air from the South Atlantic into the Antarctic interior.

These results underscore the intimate linkage of interior Antarctic climate to tropical variability. Further, this study shows that atmospheric internal variability can induce extreme regional climate change over the Antarctic interior, which has masked any anthropogenic warming signal there during the twenty-first century.

A lot of detail follows, but it is explained more simply – Klem Kyle (ZME Science): Antarctica is warming three times faster than the rest of the world

Climate scientists long thought Antarctica’s interior may not be very sensitive to warming, but our research, published today, shows a dramatic change.

Over the past 30 years, the South Pole has been one of the fastest changing places on Earth, warming more than three times more rapidly than the rest of the world.

My colleagues and I argue these warming trends are unlikely the result of natural climate variability alone. The effects of human-made climate change appear to have worked in tandem with the significant influence natural variability in the tropics has on Antarctica’s climate. Together they make the South Pole warming one of the strongest warming trends on Earth.

Scientists have been tracking temperature at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Earth’s southernmost weather observatory, since 1957. It is one of the longest-running complete temperature records on the Antarctic continent.

Our analysis of weather station data from the South Pole shows it has warmed by 1.8℃ between 1989 and 2018, changing more rapidly since the start of the 2000s. Over the same period, the warming in West Antarctica suddenly stopped and the Antarctic Peninsula began cooling.

One of the reasons for the South Pole warming was stronger low-pressure systems and stormier weather east of the Antarctic Peninsula in the Weddell Sea. With clockwise flow around the low-pressure systems, this has been transporting warm, moist air onto the Antarctic plateau.

South Pole warming linked to the tropics

Our study also shows the ocean in the western tropical Pacific started warming rapidly at the same time as the South Pole. We found nearly 20% of the year-to-year temperature variations at the South Pole were linked to ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific, and several of the warmest years at the South Pole in the past two decades happened when the western tropical Pacific ocean was also unusually warm.

We know from earlier studies that strong regional variations in temperature trends are partly due to Antarctica’s shape.

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet, bordered by the South Atlantic and Indian oceans, extends further north than the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, in the South Pacific. This causes two distinctly different weather patterns with different climate impacts.

More steady, westerly winds around East Antarctica keep the local climate relatively stable, while frequent intense storms in the high-latitude South Pacific transport warm, moist air to parts of West Antarctica.

Scientists have suggested these two different weather patterns, and the mechanisms driving their variability, are the likely reason for strong regional variability in Antarctica’s temperature trends.

Our analysis reveals extreme variations in South Pole temperatures can be explained in part by natural tropical variability.

These climate model simulations reveal the remarkable nature of South Pole temperature variations. The observed South Pole temperature, with measurements dating back to 1957, shows 30-year temperature swings ranging from more than 1℃ of cooling during the 20th century to more than 1.8℃ of warming in the past 30 years.

This means multi-decadal temperature swings are three times stronger than the estimated warming from human-caused climate change of around 1℃.

The temperature variability at the South Pole is so extreme it currently masks human-caused effects. The Antarctic interior is one of the few places left on Earth where human-caused warming cannot be precisely determined, which means it is a challenge to say whether, or for how long, the warming will continue.

But our study reveals extreme and abrupt climate shifts are part of the climate of Antarctica’s interior. These will likely continue into the future, working to either hide human-induced warming or intensify it when natural warming processes and the human greenhouse effect work in tandem.

So climate changes in the Antarctic are complex and linked to tropical variations, particularly in the South Pacific.

Movement of warm air from the tropics to Antarctica and cold air from Antarctica to the tropics affects New Zealand’s weather and climate.

We’ve been getting a sustained blast of Antarctic air over the past few days and that looks likely to continue through the week, with the next seven day highs predicted to be 8-11 degrees, with lows 4-6 degrees (in Dunedin). It’s deep winter so this isn’t out of the ordinary – except that so far this year snow hasn’t come to much, less than normal, but there’s plenty of winter to go.

While the study shows a rise in temperature at the South Pole since the early seventies it also shows more variability (which is one of the predicted effects of climate change):

Temperature and pressure changes at the South Pole during the modern instrumental record. a,b, Time series of the standardized South Pole annual-mean SAT (a) and running 30-yr SAT trends (°C decade−1) (b), with the 95% CI shaded in grey.

Record ODI score for White Ferns

New Zealand’s White Ferns have scored a record 490 runs in a 50 over One Day International. While the opposition (Ireland) will have contributed, this is especially impressive as women cricketers are not as big a hitters as men.

New Zealand women 490 for 4 (Bates 151, Green 121, Kerr 81*)
beat Ireland women 144 (Delany 37, Kasperek 4-17) by 346 runs

There were only 7 sizes in that total, but a whopping 64 fours – more than one per over on average. Ireland side scored only 18 boundaries, while Bates alone hit 26.

Notably, this match was played on the same pitch where New Zealand had chased down 137 in 11 overs without losing a wicket on Wednesday.

Record number of children in state care

There is a record number of children in state care, in part because the eligible age rising from 17 to 18 last year. This could be good or bad news, or both.

If an increasing number of children need state care for their safety and well being it is good that they are being cared for, but it must be a concern at the number requiring care.

RNZ: Record number of children in state care – more than 6000

There are now more than 6000 children in state care – an all-time record high.

Oranga Tamariki said about half of that increase was due to the age of state care rising from 17 to 18 last year.

Up from 5600 a year ago.

But Oranga Tamariki, the ministry that replaced Child, Youth and Family a year ago, is struggling to recruitenough caregivers to keep up with the increasing demand on its services.

Figures provided by the ministry show that at the end of February, Oranga Tamariki had about 3800 caregivers on its books.

It can be a difficult job to do.

The ministry’s general manager of caregiver recruitment and support, Janet Smart, said there was a caregiver shortfall.

For every extra child in state care, ideally there would be an extra caregiver, Ms Smart said.

Jonelle McNeill from Barnardos, which is contracted by Oranga Tamariki to provide foster carers, said there was a large unmet need for caregivers.

“I understand for Auckland, at any given time, there is a shortfall of up to 20 caregivers, particularly for children who have got challenging behaviours.”

Looking after some of society’s most vulnerable children was not easy, Ms McNeill said.

“It’s a really tough job … but not just anybody can be a caregiver.”

Oranga Tamariki said it had piloted a 24-7 caregiver support line, which would be rolled out nationally in the first half of this year.

A hot-line already in use is busy – RNZ: Child abuse hotline overwhelmed by calls

A pre-school manager trying to report an at-risk child to Oranga Tamariki was on hold for over half an hour with no answer, then again for 20 minutes, she says.

The incident yesterday left the manager, Jane*, worried that ordinary members of the public having to wait this long may give up and that cases of child abuse may go unreported.

Set up last year as the replacement for Child, Youth and Family, one of Oranga Tamariki’s main stated objectives is to put the safety of children first.

Those wanting to report cases of abuse or neglect are directed to the agency’s website to call a special toll free number.

Jane said she had gone to do so after being told about an incident involving a child and a parent.

“The child, I perceived, was at risk. There was certainly an erratic, aggressive parent involved and other issues that I had just learned of that day. Certainly the child could be at risk.”

After getting through to Oranga Tamariki’s Auckland call centre and providing some details of what had happened, Jane was told she would be put through to a social worker.

But after waiting for 31 minutes on hold, Jane gave up.

Help lines, and care giving, need to be properly resourced to meet demand. As well as being necessary regardless of cost, it is likely to save money in the long run.


Hottest summer on record

NIWA reports that New Zealand’s 2017-18 summer has been the hottest on record.

2017-18: Kiwi Summer for the Record Books

Standout stats:

  • The hottest summer on record by 0.3°C.
  • Hottest summer on record at 54 weather stations
  • The had seas up to 6°C above average.
  • Alexandra reached 38.7°C on 30 Jan, NZ’s hottest Jan temp in 39 yrs.
  • Cromwell had 56 days over 25°C
  • Above normal amount of ex-tropical cyclones (2).

Our summer was shaping up as a very dry one too, until the ex-tropical cyclones brought in some heavy rains.

Apart from noticeably nice weather in Dunedin there have also been significantly different growing patterns, with things like tomatoes and grapes doing much better than usual.

Note that this is a weather record for three months, but it inevitable raises questions about how the climate could be changing overall. Unseasonably warm weather in the Arctic Circle, which pushed cold air down onto the US and Europe, have also been unusual.

January warmest month on record

It has been confirmed what was expected and well signalled – January was the warmest month on record for New Zealand. All that means definitively is that January was the warmest month on record.

It certainly seemed to be one of the most consistently warm and sometimes hot months that I can recall in Dunedin. I’ve experienced hotter, in Central Otago the summer of 1972/73 was a scorcher (and I worked through it outside most of the time), and they had another hot one this year.

NZH: January hottest NZ month in 150 years

Dr Jim Salinger, who pioneered Niwa’s benchmark seven-station series, used to analyse climate trends, said January’s temperature had come in at a scorching 20.2C – 3C above average.

That’s way above average.

“This makes it the warmest of any month in reliable temperature records dating back to 1867,” said Salinger.

Final figures have yet to be officially confirmed by Niwa, which will be releasing its summary for January tomorrow.

Former record-breaking months were February 1998 at 19.6C and February 2016 at 19.5C.

The previous warmest January was in 1956 with 18.8C.

1956 was before my time, and 2016 didn’t seem extraordinary in Dunedin (it must have been elsewhere). 1998 is notable as one of the hottest years on record.

In November, December and January, the temperature had come in at 17.7C, or 2.2C above average.

The hot early summer of 1934/35 – long used to compare warm seasons to – was 17.C.

“The main reason for the hot early summer and the marine heatwave around New Zealand over this period was a strongly positive Southern Annular mode, causing the storms whirling around the Southern Oceans to contract towards the Antarctic continent, with no cold outbreaks into the Tasman Sea and New Zealand area,” Salinger said.

“The frequent anticyclones tracking over the Tasman Sea across the South Island and to the east have allowed the seas to heat up, producing the marine heatwave.”

A marine heatwave also happened in 1934-35, but this period had been warmer by 0.4C, because of global-warming-producing climate change, Salinger said.

The New Zealand temperature series – better known as the seven-station series – was developed in 1981, as part of Salinger’s PhD work.

The stations are at Auckland Airport, Masterton Airport, Kelburn in Wellington, Hokitika Airport, Appleby near Nelson, Lincoln in Canterbury and Musselburgh in Dunedin.

“These are complete since 1909, and that is why Niwa uses the records from 1909, and they have been adopted as the standard,” Salinger said.

“I have extended this record back to 1867 using a smaller network of available stations. So this is the warmest month on record, since reliable records commenced in 1867.”

Most years this century have been warmer than almost all other years as far back as the record goes.

Highest recorded level of CO2 in May

According to Climate Central carbon dioxide peaked at 409.65 ppm in May, the highest recorded and higher than research indicates there has been in human history.

However the current estimate Earth’s CO2 Home Page is 408.84, still very high, and an increase on last year (406.81).


NASA:  The relentless rise of carbon dioxide


If fossil-fuel burning continues at a business-as-usual rate, such that humanity exhausts the reserves over the next few centuries, CO2 will continue to rise to levels of order of 1500 ppm. The atmosphere would then not return to pre-industrial levels even tens of thousands of years into the future. This graph not only conveys the scientific measurements, but it also underscores the fact that humans have a great capacity to change the climate and planet.

NASA: Evidence

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.


Temperature record for third straight year

Reports keep coming out of record world temperatures.

NY Times: Earth Sets a Temperature Record for the Third Straight Year

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

The Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization.

In 2015 and 2016, the planetary warming was intensified by the weather pattern known as El Niño, in which the Pacific Ocean released a huge burst of energy and water vapor into the atmosphere.

But the bigger factor in setting the records was the long-term trend of rising temperature, which scientists say is being driven by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

“A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” said Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes.”

I doubt that every year will set a new record, but the trend is upwards.

Scientists expect that the early months of 2017 will continue to show levels of warming beyond the norm, but likely not at the level of 2016 because a strong El Niño weather pattern is now subsiding.


Are there any other scientific temperature records that show anything different?

2016 confirmed as warmest on record

As expected 2016 has been confirmed as the warmest year on record, 1.3 degrees warmer than prior to the Industrial Revolution.

RNZ: 2016 officially the warmest year on record

Last year was the hottest on record by a wide margin, with temperatures creeping close to a ceiling set by almost 200 nations for limiting global warming, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The data are the first of the New Year to confirm many projections that 2016 will exceed 2015 as the warmest since reliable records began in the 19th century, it said in a report.

The Arctic was the region showing the sharpest rise in temperatures, while many other areas of the globe, including parts of Africa and Asia, also suffered unusual heat, it said.

A few parts of South America and Antarctica were cooler than normal.

Global surface temperatures in 2016 averaged 14.8°C, or 1.3° higher than estimated before the Industrial Revolution ushered in wide use of fossil fuels, the EU body said.

Temperatures last year broke a 2015 record by almost 0.2°, the climate change service said, boosted by a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and by a natural El Nino weather event in the Pacific Ocean, which releases heat to the atmosphere.

In February 2016 alone, temperatures were 1.5° above pre-industrial times, the study said.

That’s overall world measurements.

Temperatures so far in 2017 here in southern New Zealand at least seem to be well shy of the highs, it’s been one of the coolest starts to a year I can remember. It’s not unusual to get a few cooler changes at this time of year but there seems to have been more than usual.

Of course rising worldwide temperatures will increase turbulence which could result in more cold air being dragged up from Antarctica.

July was hottest recorded month

According to NASA the world keeps heating up, with July 2016 the hottest month since recordings began.

Guardian: July 2016 was world’s hottest month since records began, says Nasa

Last month was the hottest month in recorded history, beating the record set just 12 months before and continuing the long string of monthly records, according to the latest Nasa data.

The past nine months have set temperature records for their respective months and the trend continued this month to make 10 in a row, according to Nasa. July broke the absolute record for hottest month since records began in 1880.

Similar data from the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said the past 14 months have broken the temperature record for each month, but it hasn’t released its figures for July yet.

Nasa’s results, which combine sea surface temperature and air temperature on land, showed July 2016 was 0.84C hotter than the 1951 to 1980 average for July, and 0.11C hotter than the previous record set in July 2015.

As the string of hottest months continues, 2016 is “virtually certain” to be the hottest year on record, said David Karoly, a climate scientist from the University of Melbourne.


New depths

William Trubridge has sunk to new depths (and he’s not a politician).

One News: He’s done it! Kiwi freediver William Trubridge sets astonishing new world record

Kiwi freediver William Trubridge has set a new world record, beating his old mark of 101m for the deepest unassisted dive in history.

Trubridge, 36, reached a depth of 102m on single breath at Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas this morning.

He spent 4mins 13sec underwater.

It is the 18th world record he has set, and comes after he fell just 10m short of the record in December 2014.

That’s a long time holding your breath under water.

It must be particularly difficult judging how far down you can go, and for how long, knowing that you have to get back up again.