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Changes in Climate at High Southern Latitudes: A Unique Daily Record at Orcadas Spanning 1903–2008

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  • 1 Departamento de Ciencias de la Atmósfera y los Océanos, FCEN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, and Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • | 2 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Earth System Research Laboratory/Chemical Sciences Division, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

The climate observations at Orcadas represent the only southern high-latitude site where data span more than a century, and its daily measurements are presented for the first time in this paper. Although limited to a single station, the observed warming trends are among the largest found anywhere on the earth, facilitating the study of changes in extreme temperatures as well as averages. Factors that may influence Antarctic climate include natural variability; changes in greenhouse gases; and, since about the mid-1970s, the development of the ozone hole. The seasonality of observed warming and its temporal evolution during the century are both key for interpretations of Antarctic climate change. No statistically significant climate trends are observed at Orcadas from 1903 to 1950. However, statistically significant warming is evident at Orcadas throughout all four seasons of the year since 1950. Particularly in austral fall and winter, the warming of the cold extremes (coldest 5% and 10% of days) substantially exceeds the warming of the mean or of the warmest days, providing a key indicator for cold season Antarctic climate change studies. Trends in the summer season means and extremes since 1970 are approximately twice as large as those observed earlier, supporting suggestions of additional regional warming in that season because of the effects of ozone depletion on the circulation. Further, in the spring and summer seasons, significant mean warming also occurred prior to the development of the Antarctic ozone hole (i.e., 1950–70), supporting an important role for processes other than ozone depletion, such as greenhouse gas increases, for the climate changes.

Corresponding author address: Susan Solomon, NOAA/ESRL/CSD, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305. Email: susan.solomon@noaa.gov

Abstract

The climate observations at Orcadas represent the only southern high-latitude site where data span more than a century, and its daily measurements are presented for the first time in this paper. Although limited to a single station, the observed warming trends are among the largest found anywhere on the earth, facilitating the study of changes in extreme temperatures as well as averages. Factors that may influence Antarctic climate include natural variability; changes in greenhouse gases; and, since about the mid-1970s, the development of the ozone hole. The seasonality of observed warming and its temporal evolution during the century are both key for interpretations of Antarctic climate change. No statistically significant climate trends are observed at Orcadas from 1903 to 1950. However, statistically significant warming is evident at Orcadas throughout all four seasons of the year since 1950. Particularly in austral fall and winter, the warming of the cold extremes (coldest 5% and 10% of days) substantially exceeds the warming of the mean or of the warmest days, providing a key indicator for cold season Antarctic climate change studies. Trends in the summer season means and extremes since 1970 are approximately twice as large as those observed earlier, supporting suggestions of additional regional warming in that season because of the effects of ozone depletion on the circulation. Further, in the spring and summer seasons, significant mean warming also occurred prior to the development of the Antarctic ozone hole (i.e., 1950–70), supporting an important role for processes other than ozone depletion, such as greenhouse gas increases, for the climate changes.

Corresponding author address: Susan Solomon, NOAA/ESRL/CSD, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305. Email: susan.solomon@noaa.gov

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