The South Pole is warming three times faster than the rest of the world, a study has found.
It was long thought that the pole may be resistant to global warming, but research published this week in Nature Climate Change suggests otherwise.
A data analysis found that the South Pole has been warming three times as rapidly over the past three decades – and a good portion of this warming is attributed to human-induced climate change.
The study found that the pole had warmed by 1.8 degrees Celsius between 1989 and 2018, with the rate of heating increasing since the turn of the Millennium.
While the South Pole’s temperature can be influenced by numerous natural phenomena, such as ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific, the study found that man-made climate change had almost definitely had an impact.
Kyle Clem – a research fellow in climate science at Victoria University of Wellington and one of the co-authors of the study – wrote in The Guardian: “Our analysis reveals extreme variations in South Pole temperatures can be explained in part by natural tropical variability.
“To estimate the influence of human-induced climate change, we analysed more than 200 climate model simulations with observed greenhouse gas concentrations over the period between 1989 and 2018. These climate models show recent increases in greenhouse gases have possibly contributed around 1℃ of the total 1.8℃ of warming at the South Pole.
“We also used the models to compare the recent warming rate to all possible 30-year South Pole temperature trends that would occur naturally without human influence. The observed warming exceeds 99.9 percent of all possible trends without human influence – and this means the recent warming is extremely unlikely under natural conditions, albeit not impossible.
“It appears the effects from tropical variability have worked together with increasing greenhouse gases, and the end result is one of the strongest warming trends on the planet.”
Temperatures have been recorded at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station, Earth’s southernmost weather observatory, since 1957, with temperatures swinging from 1 degree Celsius of cooling pre-2000, to 1.8 degrees Celsius warming over the past 30 years.
As such, Clem warned that this natural variation could serve to mask or intensify the impact of human-induced climate change over the coming decades.
He said: “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.”