Stronger El Niños could accelerate ‘irreversible’ thaw in Antarctica: study

Sydney, Australia, Feb 21 (EFE).- Stronger El Niño climate patterns in the future could accelerate an “irreversible” thaw of Antarctica’s ice shelves and ice sheets, Australian scientists reported Tuesday.

El Niño and La Niña are climate patterns in the Pacific Ocean which respectively cause warmer and colder conditions and form the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. They can have a global impact on weather, wildfires, ecosystems and economies.

After analyzing 31 climate models, research by Australian government agency Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) concluded that an increase in the variability of ENSO leads to reduced warming near the surface, but accelerated warming of deeper ocean waters.

“Climate change is expected to increase the magnitude of ENSO, making both El Niño and La Niña stronger,” said lead author Wenju Cai in a CSIRO statement.

“This new research shows that stronger El Niño may speed up warming of deep waters in the Antarctic shelf, making ice shelves and ice sheets melt faster.”

However, the modeling in this research, published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, pointed out that an increase in ENSO variability slows down the intensity of the westerly winds along the shelf and as a result, the upward movement of deeper, warmer waters is reduced.

“Warming around the edges of floating sea ice is slowed during this process, slowing down the melting of sea ice near the surface,” Cai said.

Ariaan Purich, co-author from Monash University, said that the effects of increased ENSO variability go beyond extreme weather risks.

“This could have broad implications for the global climate system, so continuing to understand how ENSO will respond to climate change is a critical area of climate research,” Purich said. EFE


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