A view of the Jutulsessen mountain range in east Antarctica
A view of the Jutulsessen mountain range in east Antarctica

Don’t assume uniform warming - expert

By Time of article published Mar 31, 2011

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Wellington - Researchers at a three-day science conference starting in Wellington on Thursday are looking at implications of new work on climate change.

More than 150 scientists from around the world will look at past climates in New Zealand, Australia and Antarctica, the causes and effects of climate change specifically in the Southern Hemisphere, and their relationships with global climates.

At the weekend, the scientists will hold workshops on climate in Australasia and the Southern Hemisphere looking at analysis of ice-core, marine and terrestrial records as well as computer modelling of past climates.

Geomorphologist Andrew Mackintosh of Victoria University-who was part of new research showing New Zealand glaciers have been heavily influenced by regional atmospheric conditions - has already said people should not assume warming will be uniform over the Earth.

''The more we're learning about the Southern Hemisphere we understand that it has its own climate system that's somewhat different.'' He was part of research led by Dr Joerg Schaefer of Columbia University in New York, which has calculated in detail the retreat and advance of glaciers in New Zealand over the past 11,500 years and compared it with what happened at the same time in the Northern Hemisphere.

The researchers also included geologist David Barrell, of GNS Science, and glaciologist Trevor Chinn, of the Alpine and Polar Processes Consultancy, and they found no real correlation between data from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are still growing, despite global warming, apparently because of weather patterns bringing more cool, wet conditions to New Zealand.

Such regional climate effects may mean New Zealand will show less warming than the rest of the world over the next 100 years. Dr Barrell said the New Zealand findings point to the importance of regional shifts in wind directions and sea surface temperatures. More details from the team's research will be revealed at the symposium. - The New Zealand Herald

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