Snow Could Offset Global Warming In The Antarctic

By Amir Khan on July 10, 2012 12:22 PM EDT

Increased snowfall in Antarctica could offset the effects of global warming in the region, according to a new study, published in the journal "Nature Climate Change." French researchers from the Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement and the Takuvik International Joint Unit found that the rising temperatures will lead to more precipitation, which will reduce the effects of climate change.

The amount of solar energy absorbed by Antarctica's surface is measured by its "albedo," or whiteness, which is a product of the size of the snow grains. As temperatures increase, snow particles grow bigger, which decreases the albedo and raising temperatures, creating a positive feedback loop - a loop researchers have long been aware of.

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However, in the recent study, researchers found that the process is offset by a negative feedback loop. They found that during summers marked by heavy snowfall albedo did not change significantly as the smaller snow grains were constantly renewed. As temperatures increase, precipitation will increase as well, meaning the snow grains will renew at a faster rate, offsetting the effects of climate change.

Researchers found that if temperatures increase by 5 degrees Fahrenheit, albedo would increase by approximately 0.4 percent. This increase would offset the expected 0.3 percent fall in albedo that would come from global warming.

Since the expected positive feedback loop would not be established, global warming would not be as bad as expected, researchers said. The findings mean that climatologists need to use better models to predict future climate change, according to the study.  

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