January 22, 2009
Analyzing data from satellites and weather stations authors led by Eric Steig of the University of Washington (UW) found that "warming in West Antarctica exceeded one-tenth of a degree Celsius per decade for the last 50 years and more than offset the cooling in East Antarctica", according to a statement from UW.
The researchers attribute the diverging trends to differences in elevation and geography between East Antarctica and West Antarctica as well as the influences of the hole in the ozone layer, which has a cooling effect.
This illustration depicts the warming that scientists have determined has occurred in West Antarctica during the last 50 years, with the dark red showing the area that has warmed the most. (Image Credit: NASA)
Steig suggests the data undermines those who cite cooling in Antarctica to cast doubt on whether the planet is warming.
"The thing you hear all the time is that Antarctica is cooling and that's not the case," he said. "If anything it's the reverse, but it's more complex than that. Antarctica isn't warming at the same rate everywhere, and while some areas have been cooling for a long time the evidence shows the continent as a whole is getting warmer."