Climate Dynamics

, Volume 38, Issue 5–6, pp 913–927 | Cite as

Why does the Antarctic Peninsula Warm in climate simulations?

  • Xin QuEmail author
  • Alex Hall
  • Julien Boé


The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed significantly since the 1950s. This pronounced and isolated warming trend is collectively captured by 29 twentieth-century climate hindcasts participating in the version 3 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. To understand the factors driving warming trends in the hindcasts, we examine trends in Peninsula region’s atmospheric heat budget in every simulation. We find that atmospheric latent heat release increases in nearly all hindcasts. These increases are generally anthropogenic in origin, and account for about 60% of the ensemble-mean warming trend in the Peninsula. They are driven primarily by well-understood features of the anthropogenic intensification of global hydrological cycle. As sea surface temperature increases, moisture contained in atmospheric flows increases. When such flows are forced to ascend the Peninsula’s topography, enhanced local latent heat release results. The mechanism driving the warming of the Antarctic Peninsula is therefore clear in the models. Evidence for a similar mechanism operating in the real world is seen in the increasing snow accumulation rates inferred from ice cores drilled in the Peninsula. However, the relative importance of this mechanism and other processes previously identified as potentially causing the observed warming, such as the recent sea ice retreat in the Bellingshausen Sea, is difficult to assess. Thus the relevance of the simulated warming mechanism to the observed warming is unclear, in spite of its robustness in the models.


Antarctic Peninsula Warming Latent heat transport 



This work was supported by NSF-0735056. We acknowledge the modeling groups, the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) and the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling (WGCM) for their roles in making available the WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset. Support of this dataset is provided by the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy. We thank Drs. Andrew Monaghan and William Chapman for their help with the observational data sets, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticisms of our previous manuscript.


  1. Alexeev VA, Langen PL, Bates JR (2005) Polar amplification of surface warming on an aquaplanet in “ghost forcing” experiments without sea ice feedbacks. Clim Dyn 24:655–666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arblaster JM, Meehl GA (2006) Contributions of external forcings to Southern Annular Mode trends. J Clim 19:2896–2905CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boer GJ, Fourest S, Yu B (2001) The signature of the annular modes in the moisture budget. J Clim 14:3655–3665CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cai M, Lu JH (2007) Dynamical greenhouse-plus feedback and polar warming amplification. Part II: Meridional and vertical asymmetries of the global warming. Clim Dyn 29:375–391, doi: 10.1007/s00382-007-0238-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cai W, Cowan T (2007) Trends in Southern Hemisphere circulation in IPCC AR4 models over 1950-99: Ozone depletion versus greenhouse forcing. J Clim 20:681–693CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chapman W, Walsh JE (2007) A synthesis of Antarctic temperature. J Clim 20:4096–4117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Comiso JC (2000) Variability and trends in Antarctic surface temperatures from in situ and satellite infrared measurements. J Clim 13:1674–1696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cook AJ, Fox AJ, Vaughan DG, Ferrigno JG (2005) Retreating glacier fronts on the Antarctic Peninsula over the past half-century. Science 308:541–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Forster P, Ramaswamy V, Artaxo P, Berntsen T, Betts R, Fahey DW, Haywood J, Lean J, Lowe DC, Myhre G, Nganga J, Prinn R, Raga G, Schulz M, Van Dorland R (2007) Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  10. Galewsky J (2008) Orographic clouds in terrain-blocked flows: an idealized modeling study. J Atmos Sci 65:3460–3478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gillett NP, Thompson DWJ (2003) Simulation of recent Southern Hemisphere climate change. Science 302:273–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gillett NP, Stone DA, Stott PA, Nozawa T, Karpechko AY, Hegerl GC, Wehner MF, Jones PD (2008) Attribution of polar warming to human influence. Nat Geosci 1:750–754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gong D, Wang S (1999) Definition of Antarctic oscillation index. Geophys Res Lett 26:459–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hartmann D (1994) Atmospheric general circulation and climate. In: Global physical climatology. Academic Press, London, pp 136–170Google Scholar
  15. Held IM, Soden BJ (2006) Robust response of the hydrological cycle to global warming. J Clim 19:5686–5699CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hughes M, Hall A, Fovell RG (2009) Blocking in areas of complex topography, and its influence on rainfall distribution. J Atmos Sci 66:508–518, doi: 10.1175/2008JAS2689.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jiang Q (2003) Moist dynamics and orographic precipitation. Tellus 55:301316, doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0870.2003.00,025.x Google Scholar
  18. Karpechko AY, Gillett NP, Marshall GJ, Screen JA (2009) Climate impacts of the southern annular mode simulated by the CMIP3 models. J Clim 22:375–3768Google Scholar
  19. King JC (1994) Recent climate variability in the vicinity of the Antarctic Peninsula. Int J Climatol 14:357–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Liu H, Jezek K, Li B, Zhao Z (2001) Radarsat Antarctic mapping project digital elevation model version 2. National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  21. Manabe S, Bryan K, Spelman MJ (1990) Transient response of a global ocean-atmosphere model to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. J Phys Oceanogr 20:722–749CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Marshall GJ (2003) Trends in the Southern Annular Mode from Observations and Reanalyses. J Clim 6:4134–4143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Marshall GJ, Orr A, van Lipzig NPM, King JC (2006) The impact of a changing Southern Hemisphere annular mode on Antarctic Peninsula summer temperatures. J Clim 19:5388–5404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Marshall GJ, Lagun V, Lachlan-Cope TA (2002) Changes in Antarctic Peninsula tropospheric temperatures from 1956–99: a synthesis of observations and reanalysis data. Int J Climatol 22:291–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Marshall GJ (2007) Half-century seasonal relationships between the Southern Annular Mode and Antarctic temperatures. Int J Climatol 27:373–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Monaghan AJ, Bromwich DH (2008) Advances in describing recent antarctic climate variability. Bulletin of American Meteorological Society, pp 1295–1306Google Scholar
  27. Monaghan AJ, Bromwich DH, Chapman W, Comiso JC (2008a) Recent variability and trends of Antarctic near-surface temperature. J Geophys Res-Atmos 113:D04105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Monaghan AJ, Bromwich DH, Schneider DP (2008b) Twentieth century Antarctic air temperature and snowfall simulations by IPCC climate models. Geophys Res Lett 35:L07502, doi: 10.1029/2007GL032630 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Neiman P, Persson P, Ralph F, Jorgensen D, White A, Kingsmill D (2004) Modification of fronts and precipitation by coastal blocking during an intense landfalling winter storm in Southern California: observations during CALJET. Mon Wea Rev 132:242–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Orr A, Marshall GJ, Hunt JCR, Sommeria J, Wang CG, van Lipzig NPM, Cresswell D, King JC (2008) Characteristics of summer airflow over the Antarctic Peninsula in response to recent strengthening of westerly circumpolar winds. J Atmos Sci 65:1396–1413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Russell JL, Stouffer RJ, Dixon KW (2006) Intercomparison of the Southern Ocean circulations in IPCC coupled model control simulations. J Clim 19:4560–4575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shepherd A, Wingham D, Payne T, Skvarca P (2003) Larsen ice shelf has progressively thinned. Science 302:856–859CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Steig EJ, Schneider DP, Rutherford SD, Mann ME, Comiso JC, Shindell DT (2009) Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year. Nature 457:459–463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Thomas ER, Marshall GJ, McConnell JR (2008) A doubling in snow accumulation in the western Antarctic Peninsula since 1850. Geophys Res Lett 35:L01,706, doi: 10.1029/2007GL032,529
  35. Thompson DWJ, Solomon S (2002) Interpretation of recent Southern Hemisphere climate change. Science 296:895–899CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Thompson DWJ, Wallace JM (2000) Annular modes in the extratropical circulation. Part I: month-to-month variability. J Clim 13:1000–1016Google Scholar
  37. Turner J, Colwell SR, Marshall GJ, Lachlan-Cope TA, Carleton AM, Jones PD, Lagun V, Reide PA, Iagovkinaf S (2004) The SCAR READER project: towards a high-quality database of mean Antarctic meteorological observations. J Clim 17:2890–2898CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Turner J, Colwell SR, Marshall GJ, Lachlan-Cope TA, Carleton AM, Jones PD, Lagun V, Reide PA, Iagovkinaf S (2005) Antarctic climate change during the last 50 years. Int J Climatol 25:279–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Turner J, Lachlan-Cope TA, Colwell S, Marshall GJ, Connolley WM (2006) Significant warming of the Antarctic winter troposphere. Science 311:1914–1917CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Turner J, Overland JE, Walsh JE (2007) An Arctic and Antarctic perspective on recent climate change. Int J Climatol 27(3):277–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. van den Broeke MR(2000) On the interpretation of Antarctic temperature trends. J Clim 13:3885–3889CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. van den Broeke MR, van Lipzig NPM (2004) Changes in Antarctic temperature, wind and precipitation in response to the Antarctic Oscillation. Ann Glaciol 39:119–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. van Lipzig NPM, Marshall GJ, Orr A and King JC (2008) The relationship between the Southern Hemisphere annular mode and Antarctic Peninsula summer temperatures: analysis of a high-resolution model climatology. J Clim 21:1649–1668CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vaughan DG, Doake CSM (1996) Recent atmospheric warming and retreat of ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsular. Nature 379:328–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vaughan DG, Marshall GJ, Connolley WM, Parkinson C, Mulvaney R, Hodgson DA, King JC, Pudsey CJ, Turner J (2003) Recent rapid regional climate warming on the Antarctic Peninsula. Clim Change 60:243–274, doi: 10.1023/A:1026021217,991 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.CNRS/CERFACS, URA 1875ToulouseFrance

Personalised recommendations