for National Geographic News
Snowfall amounts in Antarctica have not increased for the past 50 years, according to a new study.
The finding suggests that Antarctica's snowfall is not slowing the sea level rise caused by global warming, as most climate models predict.
It also supports a theory that the icy continent is mostly isolated from the rest of the world's climate system.
"Antarctica is at a really strange place within the global climate system at the moment," said Andrew Monaghan, a research associate at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University in Columbus.
"Annual temperatures haven't changed a whole lot over the continent as a whole."
Monaghan and an international team of scientists combined data from ice cores, snow stakes, and computer models to obtain a 50-year snowfall record for Antarctica.
They found that, like the temperature, the snowfall record showed no significant change.
The team reports the finding in today's issue of the journal Science.
Claire Parkinson, a climatologist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said the discovery suggests that there is much left to learn about Antarctica's climate.
"Our understanding of what should be going on [in Antarctica] is not as complete as we might want," she said.
Prediction Versus Reality
Most climate models predict that snowfall in Antarctica would help offset the melting of glaciers on the continent's edges and elsewhere in the world.
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