Twentieth-Century Surface Temperature Trends in the Western Ross Sea, Antarctica: Evidence from a High-Resolution Ice Core

Kate E. Sinclair Joint Antarctic Research Institute, GNS Science, Wellington, New Zealand

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Nancy A. N. Bertler Joint Antarctic Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington and GNS Science, Wellington, New Zealand

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Tas D. van Ommen Australian Antarctic Division, and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

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Abstract

A 125-yr ice core record of climate from the Whitehall Glacier ice divide provides exceptionally high-resolution stable isotope data from the northwest margin of the Ross Sea, Antarctica. This is the only proxy data available to extend the instrumental record of temperature in this region, where little is known about climate variability over the past two centuries. Using ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) data, this study develops a precipitation-weighted δ18O-temperature transfer function of 0.62‰ °C−1, which is comparable to other proximal ice cores, such as Taylor, Talos, and Law Domes. Reconstructed mean annual temperatures show no significant change between 1882 and 2006. However, a decrease in cold season [April–September (AMJJAS)] temperatures of −1.59° ± 0.84°C decade−1 (at 90% confidence) is observed since 1979. This cooling trend is in contrast to a surface temperature record from Ross Island (Scott Base) where significant spring warming is observed. It is also coincident with a positive trend in the southern annular mode, which is linked to stronger southerly winds and increased sea ice extent and duration in the western Ross Sea.

Corresponding author address: Kate Sinclair, National Isotope Centre, GNS Science, 30 Gracefield Rd., P.O. Box 30-386, Lower Hutt 5040, Wellington, New Zealand. E-mail: k.sinclair@gns.cri.nz

Abstract

A 125-yr ice core record of climate from the Whitehall Glacier ice divide provides exceptionally high-resolution stable isotope data from the northwest margin of the Ross Sea, Antarctica. This is the only proxy data available to extend the instrumental record of temperature in this region, where little is known about climate variability over the past two centuries. Using ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) data, this study develops a precipitation-weighted δ18O-temperature transfer function of 0.62‰ °C−1, which is comparable to other proximal ice cores, such as Taylor, Talos, and Law Domes. Reconstructed mean annual temperatures show no significant change between 1882 and 2006. However, a decrease in cold season [April–September (AMJJAS)] temperatures of −1.59° ± 0.84°C decade−1 (at 90% confidence) is observed since 1979. This cooling trend is in contrast to a surface temperature record from Ross Island (Scott Base) where significant spring warming is observed. It is also coincident with a positive trend in the southern annular mode, which is linked to stronger southerly winds and increased sea ice extent and duration in the western Ross Sea.

Corresponding author address: Kate Sinclair, National Isotope Centre, GNS Science, 30 Gracefield Rd., P.O. Box 30-386, Lower Hutt 5040, Wellington, New Zealand. E-mail: k.sinclair@gns.cri.nz
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