Antarctica hasn't warmed as much over the last century as climate models had originally predicted, a new study finds.
Climate change's effects on Antarctica are of particular interest because of the substantial amount of water locked up in its ice sheets.
Should that water begin to melt, sea levels around the globe could rise and inundate low-lying coastal areas.
The new study, detailed in the April 5 issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, marks the first time that researchers have been able to give a progress report on Antarctic climate model projections by comparing climate records to model simulations. (These comparisons have already been done for the other six continents.)
Information about Antarctica's harsh weather patterns has traditionally been limited, but temperature records from ice cores and ground weather stations have recently been constructed, giving scientists the missing information they needed.
"This is a really important exercise for these climate models," said study leader Andrew Monaghan of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Co.