Antarctica is melting – and that spells big trouble for Australia.
Scientists used to think Antarctica was bucking the trend on global warming by getting cooler.
Now it seems they got it wrong.
US researchers have pored over data from satellites and weather stations in the biggest ever study of the frozen continent\’s climate – and found it\’s warming after all.
Barry Brook, director of the University of Adelaide\’s Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability, said the finding was alarming.
Scientists now estimate the melting of Antarctica\’s massive ice sheets will cause the world\’s sea levels to rise by one to two metres by the end of the century.
That\’s bad news if you live near the Australian coast,” Prof Brook told AAP.
“In some areas where you\’ve currently got housing, you\’d probably have to abandon those areas.”
He said the sea would penetrate up to 1km inland in flat areas like South Australia\’s lower lakes.
Large areas which don\’t see flooding now would get flooded by king tides.
House prices for coastal areas would probably drop, Prof Brook said.
Scientists already knew, he said, that the massive ice sheets of western Antarctica were melting, but the study showed they would melt more quickly.
The study, contained in Thursday\’s issue of Nature, was also bad news for climate change in general, Prof Brook said.
It had been thought Antarctica\’s cooling would help restrain global warming by acting as a “cool pack”, but this did not appear to be the case.
The US study found that eastern Antarctica – which includes the Australian zone – is getting cooler.
But this is outweighed by western Antarctica and the Antarctic peninsula, which are warming. On average the continent is warming, the study found.
Over the past 50 years much of Antarctica has been warming at a rate comparable to the rest of the world.
Study co-author Eric Steig from the University of Washington said the satellite data was revealing.
“The thing you hear all the time is that Antarctica is cooling and that\’s not the case,” he told Nature.
Prof Brook said it had been thought Antarctica was cooling partly because of the hole in the ozone layer, which allowed the hot air out.