Friday, August 19, 2005

Global Warming=Waterworld? Maybe Not

If you've been thinking that your property in Pittsburgh will have an ocean view in a few years, you may be surprised at the results of a new study.

Instead, the NASA-funded study indicates that global warming will have different effects in different parts of the world. Surprisingly, it was found that though some regions will experience glacial melting, others will experience the opposite.

Link

A new NASA-funded study finds that predicted increases in precipitation due to warmer air temperatures from greenhouse gas emissions may actually increase sea ice volume in the Antarctic's Southern Ocean.


Dylan C. Powell, co-author of the paper and a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County:

"However, findings from our simulations suggest a counterintuitive phenomenon. Some of the melt in the Arctic may be offset by increases in sea ice volume in the Antarctic."


In addition to prior methods, satellite data was utilized for the first time.

The researchers used satellite observations for the first time, specifically from the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager, to assess snow depth on sea ice, and included the satellite observations in their model. As a result, they improved prediction of precipitation rates.

By incorporating satellite observations into this new method, the researchers achieved more stable and realistic precipitation data than the typically variable data found in the polar regions. The paper was published in the June issue of the American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research.


The linked article explains at some length the process that will result in thicker Anarctic sea ice. Only the final part is below.

Typically, warming of the climate leads to increased melting rates of sea ice cover and increased precipitation rates. However, in the Southern Ocean, with increased precipitation rates and deeper snow, the additional load of snow becomes so heavy that it pushes the Antarctic sea ice below sea level.

This results in even more and even thicker sea ice when the snow refreezes as more ice. Therefore, the paper indicates that some climate processes, like warmer air temperatures increasing the amount of sea ice, may go against what we would normally believe would occur.


Of course, the computer modelling is subject to real world verification.

"We used computer-generated simulations to get this research result. I hope that in the future we'll be able to verify this result with real data through a long-term ice thickness measurement campaign," said Powell.


So the message here is that we are never fully cognizant of the results of our actions.

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