Contrasting climate change in the two polar regions
The two polar regions have experienced remarkably different climatic changes in recent decades. The Arctic has seen a marked reduction in sea-ice extent throughout the year, with a peak during the autumn. A new record minimum extent occurred in 2007, which was 40% below the long-term climatological mean. In contrast, the extent of Antarctic sea ice has increased, with the greatest growth being in the autumn. There has been a large-scale warming across much of the Arctic, with a resultant loss of permafrost and a reduction in snow cover. The bulk of the Antarctic has experienced little change in surface temperature over the last 50 years, although a slight cooling has been evident around the coast of East Antarctica since about 1980, and recent research has pointed to a warming across West Antarctica. The exception is the Antarctic Peninsula, where there has been a winter (summer) season warming on the western (eastern) side. Many of the different changes observed between the two polar regions can be attributed to topographic factors and land/sea distribution. The location of the Arctic Ocean at high latitude, with the consequently high level of solar radiation received in summer, allows the icealbedo feedback mechanism to operate effectively. The Antarctic ozone hole has had a profound effect on the circulations of the high latitude ocean and atmosphere, isolating the continent and increasing the westerly winds over the Southern Ocean, especially during the summer and winter.
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