The South Pole heats up too much and too fast - Pixabay

The whole earth is getting warmer, but certain areas of the globe see their thermometer taking off faster than others. And among them, a sad surprise, the South Pole. The temperature there has risen three times faster than the world average over the past 30 years, due to natural phenomena "probably intensified" by climate change, according to a study published on Monday.

Antarctica is marked by extreme climatic variability, with strong differences between the coasts and the interior of the continent, in particular the frozen plateau where the South Pole is located. Thus, most of Western Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula experienced warming and melting ice in the second half of the 20th century.

No warming zone

At the same time, on the contrary, the South Pole has cooled. At least until the 1980s, before the trend reversed, as shown by the study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. With + 0.61 ° C per decade, between 1989 and 2018, the temperature recorded on the Amundsen - Scott base, at the geographic South Pole, increased more than three times the world average, the researchers say.

A result that surprised them. “It was believed that this part of Antarctica - the isolated high plateau - would be immune to global warming. We discovered that this was no longer the case, ”said one of the authors, Kyle Clem, of the University of Victoria in Wellington.

Unlikely "natural" warming

However, global warming linked to greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activities is not necessarily responsible, at least not alone. The "primary mechanism" that led to this rapid warming of the South Pole, where the temperature is permanently largely below 0 ° C (annual average around -49 ° C), is linked to warming in the tropical ocean area western pacific. This resulted in a drop in atmospheric pressure in the Weddell Sea and pushed hot air towards the South Pole, according to the study.

Even if climate models show that it is “not impossible” that the rate of warming of 0.61 ° C per decade has occurred naturally, it is “very improbable”, insisted Kyle Clem, who specifies that over + 1.8 ° C in 30 years at the South Pole, these models attribute + 1 ° C to human-induced climate change.

"The real message (...) is that no place is immune to climate change," commented Sharon Stammerjohn and Ted Scambos, of the University of Colorado, who worry mostly about the coasts of the Antarctica and the ice cap. The melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps is already the main source of the rising sea levels.


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