ANTARCTIC temperatures have cooled over the past six years, according to US space agency NASA.
An intensive scientific study of both Earth’s poles has found that from 2009 to 2016 overall temperature has dropped in the southern polar region.
NASA’s Operation IceBridge is an airborne survey of polar ice and has finalized two overlapping research campaigns at both the poles.
Coupled with the latest announcement of slight cooling in the area, it has fueled claims from climate change deniers that human industrialization is not having the huge impact on global temperature as often is claimed.
Christopher Shuman, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County glaciologist working at Goddard, said: “Field data suggests that there’s been a modest cooling in the area over the 2009–2015 time period, and images collected during that time by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on the Terra and Aqua satellites show more persistent fast ice (sea ice that is attached to the shore) in the Larsen A and Larsen B embayments”
However, Mr Shuman warned that in some areas of the Antarctic, glaciers continued to melt at significant levels, despite the slight temperature drop.
At the south polio, the mission observed a big drop in the height of two glaciers situated in the Antarctic Peninsula.
Mr Shuman added: “These IceBridge measurements show that once the ice shelves collapse, even some cooling and a good deal of persistent sea ice is not able to hold back these larger glaciers and they continue to lose mass overall.”
During one flight in the Peninsula that mapped the drainage area of several glaciers, a drop of more than 490 feet (150 meters) in the height of two glaciers since IceBridge last plotted them, in 2009, was measured.
Both glaciers, called Green and Hektoria, were tributaries to the Larsen B ice shelf, which disintegrated in 2002.
After the ice shelf collapsed, it stopped buttressing the glaciers that fed it, and glacier elevations have fallen dramatically since then.
A study published in 2012 showed average elevation losses of up to 82 feet (25 meters) per year for the lower Green and Hektoria glaciers from 2006 to 2011.
A NASA spokesman said:”So IceBridge’s discovery that both are still losing ice fast many years after the loss of the adjacent ice shelf is “not all that surprising given what we have observed with other sensors,” said Mr Shuman.
So, confusingly, the new details of further glacial melt have fueled those who believe we are causing global warming and polar ice melt.
At the Arctic north pole, the project collected much needed measurements of the status of land and sea ice at the end of the Arctic summer melt season.
The results of these have yet to be published, but the whole issue is set to be debated in full at a clime change conference in Paris later this month.