Rising sea levels, scientists look for answers in Antarctica


How will our climate change? How high will sea levels rise? If the answers of climatologists are rich in uncertainty the reason can be found at the poles where the effects of change are amplified and generate a determinative effect on the climate of the entire planet. Among the first puzzle to solve, then, is that of Antarctica, as a study published in Nature Climate Change is unveiled. The project in question was carried out by a team of scientists from 19 research institutions around the world, including Barbara Stenni, Professor of Geochemistry in the Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics at Ca’ Foscari.

Scientists have compared available data on the Antarctic climate from the last 200 years with simulations made by climate models and found that there are important gaps to be filled before one can interpret and accurately simulate the extreme variability of the climate.

"The Antarctic region has a very strong natural variability, so much so that we do not have a sufficient amount of data available to replicate such models - explains Barbara Stenni. Observations made using satellites since 1979 do not provide sufficient data to clearly differentiate between natural occurrences on the climate from those induced by human activities. We need to extract and study ice cores from multiple sites and we need to do this more frequently. Thanks to the information contained in ice cores, we can reconstruct the climate from even further back in time. Strengthening the number and validity of samplings helps us to respond to general questions and reduce uncertainty about future scenarios."

Understanding what happens in Antarctica is critical in order to simulate possible changes in sea levels in the future. The Antarctic ice sheet contains a large amount of water. The fusion of this continental ice, therefore, has a direct influence on raising sea levels.

Recently published research, coordinated by the University of Sheffield, also found that human activity is responsible for climate change. The findings illustrated significant effects on Australia: moving westerly winds from the south of Antarctic Ocean deprived south Australia with rain and,  combined with rising temperatures, resulted in a strong impact felt by communities and ecosystems.