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Ryan O’Donnell, Nicholas Lewis, Steve McIntyre, and Jeff Condon


A detailed analysis is presented of a recently published Antarctic temperature reconstruction that combines satellite and ground information using a regularized expectation–maximization algorithm. Though the general reconstruction concept has merit, it is susceptible to spurious results for both temperature trends and patterns. The deficiencies include the following: (i) improper calibration of satellite data; (ii) improper determination of spatial structure during infilling; and (iii) suboptimal determination of regularization parameters, particularly with respect to satellite principal component retention. This study proposes two methods to resolve these issues. One utilizes temporal relationships between the satellite and ground data; the other combines ground data with only the spatial component of the satellite data. Both improved methods yield similar results that disagree with the previous method in several aspects. Rather than finding warming concentrated in West Antarctica, the authors find warming over the period of 1957–2006 to be concentrated in the peninsula (≈0.35°C decade−1). This study also shows average trends for the continent, East Antarctica, and West Antarctica that are half or less than that found using the unimproved method. Notably, though the authors find warming in West Antarctica to be smaller in magnitude and find that statistically significant warming extends at least as far as Marie Byrd Land. This study also finds differences in the seasonal patterns of temperature change, with winter and fall showing the largest differences and spring and summer showing negligible differences outside of the peninsula.

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