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Stronger El Niño events may speed up irreversible melting of Antarctic ice, research

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Stronger El Niño events due to global heating may accelerate irreversible melting of the Antarctic ice sheet and ice shelves and the rise in sea levels, according to research from Australia’s premier government science agency.

Previous studies have found that rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are expected to increase the magnitude of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (Enso), the planet’s most significant year-to-year climate fluctuation and a major driver of extreme droughts and floods. Extreme warm El Niño events and cool La Niña events are expected to become more frequent as the planet heats.

Relatively little has been known about the impact of Enso changes in Antarctica. A new study published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change led by CSIRO researchers found stronger El Niño events were likely to have divergent impacts in the ocean surrounding the southern continent.

The examination of 31 climate models found stronger El Niños may accelerate the heating of deeper ocean waters while slowing the pace of warming on the surface as westerly winds…

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