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Three Centuries of New Climate Change Data for West Antarctica
Thomas, E.R., Bracegirdle, T.J., Turner, J. and Wolff, E.W. 2013. A 308-year record of climate variability in West Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters 40: 5492-5496.

The authors write that "the Antarctic Peninsula and West Antarctica have both warmed dramatically in recent decades, with some records suggesting that these are among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth (Bromwich et al., 2013)." And they note, in this regard, that "the lack of long-term records is hindering our ability to evaluate modeling results and place these recent changes in a longer-term context," which is especially aggravating since, as they continue, "the climate in the coastal region, especially in the area closest to some of the largest and fastest flowing outlet glaciers in the region, is still largely unknown."

What was done
To help rectify this situation, Thomas et al. developed "a new stable isotope record from Ellsworth Land which provides a valuable 308-year record (1702-2009) of climate variability from coastal West Antarctica." More specifically, they obtained deuterium (ğD) data from the Ferrigno ice core (F10) drilled on the Bryan Coast of West Antarctica during the austral summer of 2010/2011, which they say was "significantly correlated with the ERA-Interim temperature (1850, 1979-2009)."

What was learned
The four UK researchers report that "the large isotopic warming since the 1950s is not unusual, with equally large warming and cooling trends observed several times over the past 308 years," which they further note is "consistent with a study from continental West Antarctica (Steig et al., 2013) which concluded that this recent warming is not unprecedented in the context of the past 2000 years."

What it means
Based upon the above-noted facts, Thomas et al. were able to confidently conclude that "the effect of anthropogenic climate drivers at this location has not exceeded the natural range of climate variability in the context of the past ~300 years," which adds to the growing body of evidence that indicates there is nothing unusual, unnatural or unprecedented about late 20th-century global warming.

Bromwich, D.H., Nicolas, J.P., Monaghan, A.J., Lazzara, M.A., Keller, L.M., Weidner, G.A. and Wilson, A.B. 2013. Central West Antarctica among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth. Nature Geoscience 6: 139-145.

Steig, E.J., Ding, Q., White, J.W.C., Küttel, M., Rupper, S.B., Neumann, T.A., Neff, P.D., Gallant, A.J.E., Mayewski, P.A., Taylor, K.C., Hoffmann, G., Dixon, D.A., Schoenemann, S.W., Markle, B.R., Fudge, T.J., Schneider, D.P., Schauer, A.J., Teel, R.P., Vaughn, B.H., Burgener, L., Williams, J. and Korotkikh, E. 2013. Recent climate and ice-sheet changes in West Antarctica compared with the past 2,000 years. Nature Geoscience 6: 372-375.

Reviewed 23 April 2014