Antarctica has experienced a 10 percent increase in snowfall over the last 200 years, according to recent research set to be presented at the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria
This new discovery comes from a group of scientists with the British Antarctic Survey, who analyzed Antarctic ice cores and found that the continent accumulated nearly 272 gigatons of water over the last two centuries. Almost all of that extra water came from increased snowfall.
Such information is important because, not only does it alter the current perception of Antarctica’s climate, but it could change current sea level rise models as well.
“There is an urgent need to understand the contribution of Antarctic ice to sea-level rise and we use a number of techniques to determine the balance between snowfall and ice loss,” lead author Elizabeth Thomas, a researcher with the British Antarctic Survey, said in a statement. “When ice loss is not replenished by snowfall then sea level rises.”
Satellite pictures — which often help researchers understand shifting climates — typically only give information going back 20 years or so. As a result, ice core analysis, which are able to track snowfall for several hundred years, are more effective. In this case, they revealed that Antarctica’s surface mass balance drastically shifted from snowfall throughout the twentieth century.
Though the snowfall is everywhere, it mainly concentrated on the Antarctic Peninsula. There, the annual average is 10 percent higher than it was 200 years ago.
This discovery could alter current perceptions of climate change, but the team states the findings do not override any observations of melting or glacial retreat. Even so, they will allow scientists make more accurate sea level rise predictions as time goes on.
“We know that the two major influencers affecting change — the mass gain from snowfall and the mass loss from melting — are acting differently from one another,” added Thomas, according to UPI. “Our new findings take us a step towards improving our knowledge and understanding.”