Absence of 21st century warming on Antarctic Peninsula consistent with natural variability

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
535,
Pages:
411–415
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/nature18645
Received
Accepted
Published online

Since the 1950s, research stations on the Antarctic Peninsula have recorded some of the largest increases in near-surface air temperature in the Southern Hemisphere1. This warming has contributed to the regional retreat of glaciers2, disintegration of floating ice shelves3 and a ‘greening’ through the expansion in range of various flora4. Several interlinked processes have been suggested as contributing to the warming, including stratospheric ozone depletion5, local sea-ice loss6, an increase in westerly winds5, 7, and changes in the strength and location of low–high-latitude atmospheric teleconnections8, 9. Here we use a stacked temperature record to show an absence of regional warming since the late 1990s. The annual mean temperature has decreased at a statistically significant rate, with the most rapid cooling during the Austral summer. Temperatures have decreased as a consequence of a greater frequency of cold, east-to-southeasterly winds, resulting from more cyclonic conditions in the northern Weddell Sea associated with a strengthening mid-latitude jet. These circulation changes have also increased the advection of sea ice towards the east coast of the peninsula, amplifying their effects. Our findings cover only 1% of the Antarctic continent and emphasize that decadal temperature changes in this region are not primarily associated with the drivers of global temperature change but, rather, reflect the extreme natural internal variability of the regional atmospheric circulation.

At a glance

Figures

  1. SAT changes at the six AP stations.
    Figure 1: SAT changes at the six AP stations.

    a, b, Map of the Antarctic (a) with a blow up of the AP showing the locations of stations referred to in the text (b). The locations of the drilling sites for the Ferrigno and James Ross Island ice cores are indicated by a red diamond and an arrowed cross, respectively. ch, The time series of annual mean SAT anomalies are shown for Bellingshausen (c), O’Higgins (d), Esperanza (e), Marambio (f), Vernadsky (g) and Rothera (h), with each horizontal line indicating the mean for the whole time series. AS, Amundsen Sea; BS, Bellingshausen Sea; DP, Drake Passage; WAIS, West Antarctic Ice Sheet; WS, Weddell Sea.

  2. AP temperature and measures of tropical climate variability since 1979.
    Figure 2: AP temperature and measures of tropical climate variability since 1979.

    a, The stacked–normalized SAT anomalies for 1979–2014 (thin black line), with the thick black line showing the annual mean values. The solid red lines show the linear trends for the warming and cooling periods, with the 95% confidence limits for the trends indicated by the broken lines. b, The monthly mean IPO index (continuous black line) and Niño 3.4 temperature anomaly (broken line), with the grey line showing the IPO index with decadal smoothing. The vertical grey-shaded area on both figures indicates the period of transition from warming to cooling identified by the Mann–Kendall test.

  3. Trends and differences in atmospheric and oceanic conditions.
    Figure 3: Trends and differences in atmospheric and oceanic conditions.

    a, The trend in annual mean SIC for 1979–1997. b, The trend in annual mean SLP for 1979–1997. c, The trend in annual mean SIC for 1999–2014. d, The trend in annual mean SLP for 1999–2014. e, The difference in annual mean SSTs between 1999–2014 and 1979–1997. Areas where the difference or trend is significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line.

  4. Differences in atmospheric conditions between the cooling and warming periods (1999–2014 minus 1979–1997).
    Figure 4: Differences in atmospheric conditions between the cooling and warming periods (1999–2014 minus 1979–1997).

    af, SLP December–February (DJF) (a), 300 hPa zonal wind component DJF (b), stream function (colours) and wave propagation (arrows) DJF (c), SLP March–September (d), 300 hPa zonal wind component March–September (e), stream function (colours) and wave propagation (arrows) March–September (f). Areas where the differences are significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line.

  5. The Southern Annular Mode.
    Extended Data Fig. 1: The Southern Annular Mode.

    The austral summer (December–February) SAM index40 for December 1979–February 2014. The linear trends for 1980–1997 and 1999–2014 are shown in red. The data were obtained from https://legacy.bas.ac.uk/met/gjma/sam.html.

  6. Seasonal SLP trends during the warming period.
    Extended Data Fig. 2: Seasonal SLP trends during the warming period.

    ad, DJF December 1979–February 1998 (a), MAM 1979–1997 (b), JJA 1979–1997 (c) and September–November (SON) 1979–1997 (d). Areas where the trends are significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line.

  7. Seasonal trends in sea-ice concentration during the warming period.
    Extended Data Fig. 3: Seasonal trends in sea-ice concentration during the warming period.

    ad, DJF December 1979–February 1998 (a), MAM 1979–1997 (b), JJA 1979– 1997 (c) and SON 1979–1997 (d). Areas where the trends are significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line.

  8. Seasonal SLP trends during the cooling period.
    Extended Data Fig. 4: Seasonal SLP trends during the cooling period.

    ad, DJF December 1999–February 2014 (a), MAM 1999–2014 (b), JJA 1999–2014 (c) and SON 1999–2014 (d). Areas where the trends are significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line.

  9. Seasonal trends in sea-ice concentration during the cooling period.
    Extended Data Fig. 5: Seasonal trends in sea-ice concentration during the cooling period.

    ad, DJF December 1999–February 2014 (a), MAM 1999–2014 (b), JJA 1999–2014 (c) and SON 1999–2014 (d). Areas where the trends are significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line.

  10. The correlation of annual mean SAT from the stations with annual mean SLP for 1979–2014.
    Extended Data Fig. 6: The correlation of annual mean SAT from the stations with annual mean SLP for 1979–2014.

    af, Areas where the correlation is significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line. Rothera (a), Vernadsky (b), Bellingshausen (c), O’Higgins (d), Esperanza (e) and Marambio (f).

Tables

  1. Annual and seasonal trends of the stacked, normalized temperature record
    Extended Data Table 1: Annual and seasonal trends of the stacked, normalized temperature record

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK

    • John Turner,
    • Hua Lu,
    • Ian White,
    • John C. King,
    • Tony Phillips,
    • J. Scott Hosking,
    • Thomas J. Bracegirdle,
    • Gareth J. Marshall,
    • Robert Mulvaney &
    • Pranab Deb

Contributions

J.T. conceived the study and led the writing of the manuscript. J.T., H.L., T.P., J.S.H., G.J.M., T.J.B. and J.C.K. analysed the results. P.D. investigated the role of tropical forcing. T.P. managed the data and prepared some of the figures. H.L. carried out the statistical analysis. R.M. compared the recent trends with palaeoclimate data. I.W. computed the stationary eddy fluxes.

Competing financial interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to:

Reviewer Information Nature thanks W. Hobbs and E. Steig for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Author details

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figures

  1. Extended Data Figure 1: The Southern Annular Mode. (65 KB)

    The austral summer (December–February) SAM index40 for December 1979–February 2014. The linear trends for 1980–1997 and 1999–2014 are shown in red. The data were obtained from https://legacy.bas.ac.uk/met/gjma/sam.html.

  2. Extended Data Figure 2: Seasonal SLP trends during the warming period. (285 KB)

    ad, DJF December 1979–February 1998 (a), MAM 1979–1997 (b), JJA 1979–1997 (c) and September–November (SON) 1979–1997 (d). Areas where the trends are significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line.

  3. Extended Data Figure 3: Seasonal trends in sea-ice concentration during the warming period. (227 KB)

    ad, DJF December 1979–February 1998 (a), MAM 1979–1997 (b), JJA 1979– 1997 (c) and SON 1979–1997 (d). Areas where the trends are significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line.

  4. Extended Data Figure 4: Seasonal SLP trends during the cooling period. (296 KB)

    ad, DJF December 1999–February 2014 (a), MAM 1999–2014 (b), JJA 1999–2014 (c) and SON 1999–2014 (d). Areas where the trends are significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line.

  5. Extended Data Figure 5: Seasonal trends in sea-ice concentration during the cooling period. (233 KB)

    ad, DJF December 1999–February 2014 (a), MAM 1999–2014 (b), JJA 1999–2014 (c) and SON 1999–2014 (d). Areas where the trends are significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line.

  6. Extended Data Figure 6: The correlation of annual mean SAT from the stations with annual mean SLP for 1979–2014. (504 KB)

    af, Areas where the correlation is significant at P < 0.05 are indicated by a bold line. Rothera (a), Vernadsky (b), Bellingshausen (c), O’Higgins (d), Esperanza (e) and Marambio (f).

Extended Data Tables

  1. Extended Data Table 1: Annual and seasonal trends of the stacked, normalized temperature record (14 KB)

Additional data