Since 2016, much debate has raged on regarding the rain in Antarctica. Once something that has almost never happened, this weather event led scientists to extensive research.
This paper was titled “January 2016 extensive summer melt in West Antarctica favored by strong El Nino.” It was published in the journal Nature Communications. For those who do not know an El Nino is a weather event that works to bring warm water to a region and scientists say this was to blame for the melting of West Antarctic ice sheets and the rainfall in the area. That being said, if you look at the paper you will notice how clear they make it that they do not know what the normal weather in Antarctica really is.
“Here we report on an episode of extensive and prolonged surface melting observed in the Ross Sea sector of the WAIS in January 2016. A comprehensive cloud and radiation experiment at the WAIS ice divide, downwind of the melt region, provided detailed insight into the physical processes at play during the event. The unusual extent and duration of the melting are linked to strong and sustained advection of warm marine air toward the area, likely favored by the concurrent strong El Niño event. The increase in the number of extreme El Niño events projected for the twenty-first century could expose the WAIS to more frequent major melt events.”
“Passive microwave satellite observations (Fig. 1a) indicate that surface melt occurred during one or more days over a broad sector of West Antarctica (termed Ross sector hereafter) in January 2016, with up to 15 melt days over parts of the eastern Ross Ice Shelf and Siple Coast. “
One of the paper’s authors, Julien Nicolas from the Ohio State University Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center has said melts of this magnitude were quite rare for Antarctica. He says that there have only been about three or four events of this stature in the past 40 years. The passive microwave satellite-observed surface ice melt at least two times the size of California.
While this pattern only occurred over a mere 2 week period it raises a lot of questions, to say the least. Whether you believe El Nino was behind this or it was the result of the effects of climate change is not necessarily the point of this article. The point is if it happens once it can happen again. If more extremes of this stature occur ice shelves will melt and the ice sheet itself will become weak. Something really bad could happen in the future and we all need to be aware.
Please feel free to check out the video below to learn more about what may happen if this happens again/continues to happen. What do you think about all of this? I for one am a bit concerned.
(Image Via: Julien Nicolas/Ohio State University)