Lessons at the Bottom of the World

Climate change—higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and more frequent weather-related disasters—affects the entire world, but conditions in Antarctica present a special opportunity to study the phenomenon.

In particular, data that Parker Liautaud will gather during his trek to the South Pole will help scientists understand the impact of climate change on the Antarctic ice sheet and how melting might cause sea levels to rise.

Take a look at the data visualizations and info graphics below that chart our changing climate globally and at the frozen bottom of the world.

Departure from Average: Global Temperature, 1901-2012

This graph shows how temperatures globally have varied year by year from the 1900-2000 average. Worldwide, 2001-2010 was the warmest decade ever recorded.


Source: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/weather-climate/temperature.html

Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 1751-2009

The accumulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a variety of sources raises global temperatures.

Source: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ftp/ndp030/global.1751_2009.ems

Antarctic Temperatures Since 1958

Temperatures at Antarctica’s Amundsen Weather Station have risen, albeit more slowly than global averages, over the last 50 years.

Source: ftp://amrc.ssec.wisc.edu/pub/southpole/50_yr_climate/readme.txt

Antarctica Temperature and Snow Accumulation, 1800-2008

As Antarctic temperatures have slowly risen over the last century, snowfall hasn’t appreciably changed. Not all data supports a broader trend in climate change.

Source: http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/icecore/antarctica/wais2008accum.txt and http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ftp/ndp032/table2.txt

Average Temperatures, Antarctica Weather Stations

A continental landmass like Antarctica (it’s bigger than both Europe and Australia) has several climate zones, all cold given their proximity to the South Pole but clearly distinct. Weather stations scattered across the continent show us the range in temperatures.

Source: http://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/antarctica%20environment/climate_graph/climate_weather.htm

World Bank Data on Climate Change

This world map aggregates data on climate systems, exposure to climate impacts, resilience, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy use. Other indicators relevant to climate change are found under other World Bank data pages, particularly Environment, Agriculture & Rural Development, Energy & Mining, Health, Infrastructure, Poverty, and Urban Development. Select a variable from the Indicator name at the bottom of the visual to see the change in metrics across the globe.

Source: http://data.worldbank.org/topic/climate-change

Changing Climate, Shrinking Icepack

In a vicious climatic cycle, as atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen the Antarctic ice pack has begun to shrink, falling at its shoreline into the sea. This leads to rising sea levels and increasing threats to the ice.

visual 6 ice Shelf

Source: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Glaciology Program, Antarctic Cooperative Research (ice shelf animation here)