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It's awfully cold in East Antarctica

21 Oct 2020 | Science Notes

If that observation strikes you as not exactly fitting in the category of breaking news, we don’t just mean in comparison to the rest of the world. We mean in comparison to how warm it was in past millennia down there. A new scientific study, reviewed by Kenneth Richard at No Tricks Zone, looked at indicators of East Antarctic lake levels and found that from 12,000 to 6,000 years ago it was typically much warmer – as in 5° C warmer – than at present. Then it cooled for 5,000 years. Then it warmed again, rising to as much as 6 degrees C warmer than the present from 1,500 to about 1,000 years ago. It must have been caused by the SUVs those penguins were driving. Funny it didn’t lead to disastrous sea level increase in the Middle Ages.

Ha ha but seriously folks. Further evidence of past warmth in Antarctica comes from mummified remains of elephant seals along the Antarctic coast. These ungainly creatures, at least on land, only live where there is open water, which is why today they don't live on the Antarctic coast – the permanent year-round sea ice makes it impossible for them. The closest they can get now is about 2,400 km to the north where it is warm enough to keep open water throughout the year.

Finally, Richard notes, a new study of post-1980 temperature data from East Antarctica shows that from 1985 to 2005 the region underwent a cooling trend. Despite the fact that global warming is supposed to mean amplified warming in the polar regions. In theory anyway. And CO2 is the control knob which means there were no warming and cooling events prior to the recent increase in CO2 levels. Again, in theory.

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