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Study finds Antarctica is also growing warmer

By Seth Borenstein
Associated Press / January 22, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Antarctica, the only place that had oddly seemed immune from climate change, is warming after all, according to a new study.

For years, Antarctica was an enigma to scientists who track the effects of global warming. Temperatures on much of the continent at the bottom of the world were staying the same or slightly cooling, previous research indicated.

The new study went back further than earlier work and filled in a massive gap in data with satellite information to find that Antarctica too is getting warmer, like the Earth's other six continents.

The findings were published in today's issue of the journal Nature.

"Contrarians have sometime grabbed on to this idea that the entire continent of Antarctica is cooling, so how could we be talking about global warming," said study co-author Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. "Now we can say: No, it's not true . . . It is not bucking the trend."

The study does not point to man-made climate change as the cause of the Antarctic warming - doing so is a highly intricate scientific process.

"We can't pin it down, but it certainly is consistent with the influence of greenhouse gases," said NASA scientist Drew Shindell, another study co-author. Some of the effects also could be natural variability, he said.

The study showed that Antarctica remains a complicated weather picture, especially with only a handful of monitoring stations in its vast interior.

Researchers used satellite data and mathematical formulas to fill in missing information. That made outside scientists queasy about making conclusions with such sparse information. "This looks like a pretty good analysis, but I have to say I remain somewhat skeptical," Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in an e-mail.

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