Scientists are working to confirm the predictions of climate models, and the results aren’t always as expected. For example, the models suggest that global warming means more snowfall near Earth’s poles. That extra snowfall could slow sea level rise, as more water stays in the ice sheets.
David Bromwich: The ocean is going up at about 2 to 3 millimeters a years, so changes even in the snowfall over Antarctica can have a significant effect on the change in sea level.
David Bromwich of Ohio State University has studied the history of snowfall over Antarctica over the past 50 years and found his results don’t match the predictions of most climate warming models.
David Bromwich: There were increases in some decades in some places, and decreases in the same places. There was lots of variability, but essentially no significant trend going on in snowfall variation.
And again that result is unexpected because computer models show snowfall increasing as climate warms.
David Bromwich: The question is, how are the models doing predicting changes in specific regions? For Antarctica, there are some aspects that the models are not doing as well as we would like them to do.
The work of Bromwich and others continues to show the extreme complexity of Earth’s climate.
David Bromwich: What’s happening in these remote parts of our world, as far as the ice sheets go – in Antarctic, in Greenland – has a direct impact everywhere. People who live close to the coast – say down on the Gulf coast of the United States, or the Pacific Islands, or the Netherlands – feel the impact of the gradual rise of sea level.
Thanks today to NASA, in celebration of the International Polar Year.
Our thanks to:
Professor of Atmospheric Science
The Ohio State University
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.