Quantitative assessment of Antarctic climate variability and change

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Monday, 3 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Ana C. Ordonez, University of Washington, Lacey, WA; and D. Schneider

The Antarctic climate is both extreme and highly variable, but there are indications it may be changing. As the climate in Antarctica can affect global sea level and ocean circulation, it is important to understand and monitor its behavior. Observational and model data have been used to study climate change in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, though observational data is sparse and models have difficulty reproducing many observed climate features. For example, a leading hypothesis that ozone depletion has been responsible for sea ice trends is struggling with the inability of ozone-forced models to reproduce the observed sea ice increase. The extent to which this data-model disagreement represents inadequate observations versus model biases is unknown. This research assessed a variety of climate change indicators to present an overview of Antarctic climate that will allow scientists to easily access this data and compare indicators with other observational data and model output. Indicators were obtained from observational and reanalysis data for variables such as temperature, sea ice area, and zonal wind stress. Multiple datasets were used for key variables. Monthly and annual anomaly data from Antarctica and the Southern Ocean as well as tropical indices were plotted as time series on common axes for comparison. Trends and correlations were also computed. Zonal wind, surface temperature, and sea ice had strong relationships and were further discussed in terms of how they may relate to climate variability and change in the Antarctic. This analysis will enable hypothesized mechanisms of Antarctic climate change to be critically evaluated.