Modelling Climate Change in the Antarctic

Using the latest climate modelling capability available, the team are exploring future climate changes across the Antarctic.


As part of our research program, the team are testing the results of the ice sheet reconstructions against a suite of Earth system models, providing insights into the mechanisms and drivers of ice sheet change. Working with a number of world-leading climate modellers, the team are addressing the drivers of key periods in our planet's history that provide valuable clues into how Antarctica's climate impacts and is affected by the rest of the world. Crucial in this regard are periods during which the Antarctic was warmer than present day. An important examples is the Last Interglacial, a period of relatively warm conditions spanning around 135,000 to 115,000 years ago.


During the Last Interglacial, global sea level is thought to have been approximately six to nine metres higher than present – yet temperatures are believed to have been only 2 °C higher than pre-industrial levels. To understand these remarkably high sea levels, we are using climate models to uncover mechanisms of global change. Results from independent model ocean and high-resolution ice sheet simulations suggest that parts of the East Antarctic that have been previously considered ‘stable’ are potentially highly vulnerable to collapse from ocean warming, initiated by a polewards shift in southern mid-latitude westerly winds. In recently published work we have proposed that the pervasive regional ocean warming could trigger substantial ice sheet drawdown, thereby making a significant contribution to global sea level during the Last Interglacial period and future warming.


Other key collaborators:  Laurie Menviel (University of New South Wales), Steven Phipps (Australian Antarctic Division and University of Tasmania),


If you would like to learn more, check out some of our recent research papers:


Turney, C.S.M., Jones, R.T., Phipps, S.J., Thomas, Z., Hogg, A., Kershaw, A.P., Fogwill, C.J., Palmer, J., Bronk Ramsey, C., Adolphi, F., Muscheler, R., Hughen, K.A., Staff, R.A., Grosvenor, M., Golledge, N.R., Rasmussen, S.O., Hutchinson, D.K., Haberle, S., Lorrey, A., Boswijk, G. and Cooper, A. (2017) Rapid global ocean-atmosphere response to Southern Ocean freshening during the Last Glacial. Nature Communications.


Phipps, S.J., Fogwill, C.J. and Turney, C.S.M. (2016) Impacts of marine instability across the East Antarctic Ice Sheet on Southern Ocean dynamics. The Cryosphere, 10, 2317-2328. doi: 10.5194/tc-10-2317-2016.


Fogwill, C.J., Phipps, S.J., Turney, C.S.M., Golledge, N.R. (2015) Sensitivity of the Southern Ocean to enhanced regional Antarctic ice sheet meltwater input. Earth's Future, 2015EF000306.


Golledge, N.R., Menviel, L., Carter, L., Fogwill, C.J., England, M.H., Cortese, G., Levy, R.H. (2014) Antarctic contribution to Meltwater Pulse 1A from reduced Southern Ocean overturning. Nature Communications 5, 5107, doi: 5110.1038/ncomms6107.


Fogwill, C.J., Turney, C.S.M., Meissner, K.J., Golledge, N.R., Spence, P., Roberts, J.L., England, M.H., Jones, R.T., and Carter, L. (2014) Testing the sensitivity of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet to Southern Ocean dynamics: past changes and future implications. Journal of Quaternary Science, 29, 91-98.