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article imageSouthern Ocean winds strongest in 1,000 years

By Sravanth Verma     May 12, 2014 in Environment
Using data from Antarctic ice cores and other sources, a study published in the Nature Climate Change journal says that winds in the Southern Ocean are the strongest they have been in 1,000 years.
Shifts in weather patterns driven by climate change are the reason for this change, which could make Antarctica colder and bring more droughts to Australia.
The winds are known as the "Roaring Forties" and the Southern Ocean is known for its fierce gales and the planet's largest waves. The study's lead researcher Nerilie Abram of the Australian National University said, "The strengthening of these winds has been particularly prominent over the past 70 years, and by combining our observations with climate models we can clearly link this to rising greenhouse gas levels."
Dr. Abram said the study predicted more troubled times for Australia's farmers. "As we see those westerly winds pull in tighter towards Antarctica, it means that the farmers in are actually getting less of those storms bringing them that vital rain."
Co-authors Dr Robert Mulvaney and Professor Matthew England said the study can explain some key questions about climate change in Antarctica. Skeptics of climate change have pointed out that Antarctica is not warming as quickly as the rest of the planet. "Strengthening of these westerly winds helps us to explain why large parts of the Antarctic continent are not yet showing evidence of climate warming," said Dr Mulvaney, from the British Antarctic Survey. "Because as those westerly winds tighten around Antarctica, they actually trap air and they stop those warm winds from being able to come in over the continent," said Dr. Abram.
Wenju Cai, atmospheric scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, who was not part of the research team, said the findings could assist in other climate change studies, such as the rate at which the Southern Ocean absorbs heat and carbon dioxide is changing. Dr. Cai says the faster winds “may have a lot of influences that we do not know now. We may even solve some of the big issues that have been puzzling scientists for many, many years.”
More about Southern Ocean, Climate change, Antarctica
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