Over the past 30 years, the south pole has been one of the fastest-changing places on Earth, warming more than three times more rapidly than the rest of the world.
My colleagues and I argue these warming trends are unlikely the result of natural climate variability alone. The effects of human-made climate change appear to have worked in tandem with the significant influence natural variability in the tropics has on Antarctica’s climate. Together they make the south pole warming one of the strongest warming trends on Earth.
The south pole lies within the coldest region on Earth: the Antarctic plateau. Average temperatures range from -60℃ during winter to just -20℃ during summer.
Antarctica’s climate generally has a huge range in temperature over the course of a year, with strong regional contrasts. Most of West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula were warming during the late 20th century. But the south pole – in the remote and high-altitude continental interior – cooled until the 1980s.
Scientists have been tracking temperature at the Amundsen-Scott south pole Station, Earth’s southernmost weather observatory, since 1957. It is one of the longest-running complete temperature records on the Antarctic continent.
Our analysis of weather station data from the south pole shows it has warmed by 1.8℃ between 1989 and 2018, changing more rapidly since the start of the 2000s. Over the same period, the warming in West Antarctica suddenly stopped and the Antarctic Peninsula began cooling.