Fact check: Temperature in Antarctica has increased due to increasing CO2

Icebergs surround Galindez Island in Antarctica

Icebergs surround Galindez Island in Antarctica. The Antarctic Peninsula has been warming rapidly, five times faster than the global average.

Photo credit: Courtesy | AFP

On January 29, this year, The Weekly Sceptic Live magazine ran an article titled: “Scientists Struggle to Understand Why Antarctica Hasn’t Warmed for Over 70 Years Despite Rise in CO2.”

The article alleged that the continent of Antarctica has shown zero net warming for the last 70 years and that it casts doubt over the link between Carbon dioxide and climate change.

The article was based on a study published in Climate and Atmospheric Science first published on October 8, 2020, titled Low Antarctic continental climate sensitivity due to high ice sheet orography.

The study explains that the Antarctic continent has not warmed in the last seven decades, despite a monotonic increase in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.

Another study by Nature Geoscience titled Central West Antarctica Among The Most Rapidly Warming Regions On Earth, says that “there is clear evidence that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is contributing to sea-level rise.”

It, however, notes that scientists are debating the magnitude of the warming in the area, because “long-term near-surface temperature observations have substantial gaps.”

The article in part reads: “Observations have been corrected, and gaps have been filled using global reanalysis data and spatial interpolation. The record reveals a linear increase in annual temperature between 1958 and 2010 by 2.4±1.2 degrees Celsius, establishing central west Antarctica as one of the fastest-warming regions globally.”

“A continued rise in summer temperatures could lead to more frequent and extensive episodes of surface melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. These results argue for a robust long-term meteorological observation network in the region.”

Another article by the same journal notes that “Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 metres by 2500 if emissions continue unabated.”

According to Cool Antarctica, The mean annual air temperature of the Antarctic Peninsula has “increased by nearly 3°C in the region in the last 50 years, five times the global mean.” And that “the temperature of the rest of Antarctica shows indications of rising at a slower rate.”

“The temperature of Western Antarctica has also risen by a comparable amount; this is the region attached to the Peninsula and stretches to the Transantarctic Mountains. The temperature of Eastern Antarctica has risen by a much smaller amount or has remained stable; this is the region on the other side of the Transantarctic Mountains.”

“There is no unusual significant loss of ice of any kind from the larger 96 percent of Antarctica that is not the Peninsula. Rising temperatures cause ice shelves to break up - as they are floating already this will not affect sea levels, it may cause the glaciers behind them to speed up their flow rate considerably. These glaciers will add to sea-level rise if they melt.

“The temperature of Antarctica as a whole is predicted to rise by a small amount over the next 50 years. Any increase in the rate of ice melting is expected to be at least partly offset by increased snowfall as a result of the warming.”

“The Antarctic Peninsula has been warming rapidly, five times faster than the global average. Since 1950, the Antarctic Peninsula has warmed almost three degrees Celsius. That's more warming than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere. Overall warmer temperatures along the peninsula are increasing ice melt and have caused several ice shelves to break apart,” notes Centre for Science Education.

“Unlike the rapidly warming Antarctic Peninsula, patterns of temperature change in the interior of the Antarctic continent are less certain.  The massive East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is about five kilometers thick at its highest point, was previously thought to be too large to be affected by changes in climate, however, recent studies show that the ice sheet does, in fact, seem to respond to shifts in temperature. Scientists predict that continuing to put greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will speed up in changes in East Antarctica that are similar to what is happening in the Arctic and West Antarctica, and warn that melting Antarctic ice could cause rapid sea level rise.


- This fact check was produced by Nation with support from Code for Africa’s Pesa Check, International Fact Checking Network, and African Fact Checking Alliance Network