A permafrost warming in a cooling Antarctica?
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The magnitude and even direction of recent Antarctic climate change is still debated because the paucity of long and complete instrumental data records. While along Antarctic Peninsula a strong warming coupled with large retreat of glaciers occurred, in continental Antarctica a cooling was recently detected. Here, the first existing permafrost data set longer than 10 years recorded in continental Antarctica is presented. Since 1997 summer ground surface temperature showed a strong warming trend (0.31°C per year) although the air temperature was almost stable. The summer ground surface temperature increase seemed to be influenced mainly by the increase of the total summer radiation as confirmed also by the increase of the summer thawing degree days. In the same period the active layer exhibited a thickening trend (1 cm per year) comparable with the thickening rates observed in several Arctic locations where air warming occurred. At all the investigated depths permafrost exhibited an increase of mean annual temperature of approximately 0.1°C per year. The dichotomy between active layer thickness and air temperature trends can produce large unexepected and unmodelled impacts on ecosystems and CO2 balance.
KeywordsSnow Cover Active Layer Antarctic Peninsula Ground Temperature Recent Climate Change
The research was carried out in the framework of the PNRA (Progetto Nazionale di Ricerca in Antartide), project 5.3 “Permafrost and Global Change II”. Climatic data at Eneide were kindly furnished by PNRA (www.climaantartide.it). Special thanks to Prof. F. E. Nelson and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments and suggestions.
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