‘Antarctic monsoons’ could occur in dramatic chain reaction of extreme weather, scientists warn

Ice loss could spark major changes to weather patterns, research into previous warm periods reveals. By Harry Cockburn

Thursday 13 May 2021 21:31
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King penguins in the rain in Antarctica. If the ice sheet covering the continent retreats, it could rapidly become much warmer and wetter
King penguins in the rain in Antarctica. If the ice sheet covering the continent retreats, it could rapidly become much warmer and wetter

The climate crisis could cause a dramatic chain reaction of warming events in the Antarctic, which could lead to heavy rainfall and accelerating ice loss on the continent, scientists have said.

New research suggests that in the past, when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global average temperatures hit levels likely to be seen by the end of this century, the vast ice sheet covering the continent was much more unstable than previously thought.

During this period in the Middle Miocene (13-17 million years ago), the ice sheet retreated and possibly came close to collapse, the scientists said. When the period of global heating ended, it stabilised again.

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