West Antarctic Warming Twice As Fast as We Thought

New study finds temperatures up 4.4° since 1958

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 24, 2012 8:52 AM CST | Updated Dec 29, 2012 7:15 AM CST

(Newser) – West Antarctica is warming at roughly twice the rate scientists previously believed, and roughly three times as fast as the planet as a whole, according to a new study of data from the middle of the region. The average temperature has risen 4.4°F since 1958, the New York Times reports, which means the huge ice sheet there might be at a greater risk of long-term collapse than previously believed. That event would drastically change global sea levels.

"The surprises keep coming," says one scientist. "When you see this type of warming, I think it's alarming." A 2009 study found extensive warming in West Antarctica, but climate change skeptics have challenged its findings. In an attempt to settle things, researchers retrieved the region's longest-running automated sensor, which has been consulted only rarely because of gaps in its measurements. They discovered a software error that had distorted its records and, using computer analysis to fill the gaps, concluded that if anything, the 2009 study low-balled the problem.

A lone emperor penguin stands on the edge of an iceberg drift in the Ross Sea in the Antarctic, in this Dec. 1, 2006, file photo from Fish Eye Films.   (AP Photo/Fish Eye Films, John Weller)
Emperor penguins stand on the edge of an ice drift in the Ross Sea in the Antarctic, in this 2006 file photo from Fish Eye Films.   (AP Photo/Fish Eye Films, John Weller)
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