Australian Antarctic ice cores help build a map of snowfall

The snow surface at Law Dome, one of the ice core sites used in this study.
The snow surface at Law Dome, one of the ice core sites used in this study. (Photo: Tas van Ommen)

11 August 2006

Ice core and observational data have been used to build a map of Antarctic snowfall changes over the past 50 years. An international team used data from 16 sites across the continent. Australian ice core data from several sites in East Antarctica contributed to this study.

Large variations in snowfall across the continent and also through time are shown in the study. However the study does not show any significant trends.

Climate models generally predict an increase in Antarctic snowfall along with a warming climate, because warmer air can hold more moisture. Despite clear warming, globally, over this period, the Antarctic snowfall rate does not show any increase.

This is significant for future projections of sea-level because increased Antarctic snowfall in a warmer climate has been expected to lock up additional water in the ice-cap, taking out about 10% of the projected sea-level rise.

Andrew J. Monaghan, David H. Bromwich et al (2006). Insignificant Change in Antarctic Snowfall Since the International Geophysical Year. Science Vol. 313 no. 5788 pp. 827–831. DOI: 10.1126/science.1128243

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