Currents Are the Secret to an Antarctic Climate Change Mystery

Mackenzie Bay, Antarctica. Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Mackenzie Bay, Antarctica. Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Is Antarctica melting or not? This question has been asked time and time again by scientists and climate change deniers alike. Climate models and ice records have shown that for some reason, warming in the Southern Ocean is happening at a significantly delayed rate.

By Sarah Emerson | MOTHERBOARD

For skeptics, Antarctica’s sea ice growth in the face of global warming has provided false ammunition against the existence of anthropogenic climate change. But for scientists, the southernmost continent’s seeming resilience has offered an invaluable opportunity to examine a relatively untouched ocean ecosystem before it succumbs to rising temperatures.

A study published this week in Nature Geoscience provides new insights into why the waters surrounding Antarctica stand to be the last places on Earth affected by climate change. What researchers discovered was that centuries-old ocean currents—seawater that hasn’t touched the planet’s atmosphere since long before the Industrial Revolution—are responsible for keeping the Southern Ocean cold. For now.

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