A new analysis of weather balloon observations from the last 30 years reveals that the Antarctic has the same �global warming' signature as that seen across the whole Earth, but is three times larger than that observed globally. The results by scientists from British Antarctic Survey are reported this week in Science.

Although the rapid surface warming in the Antarctic Peninsula region has been known for some time, this study has produced the first indications of broad-scale climate change across the whole Antarctic continent.

Lead author Dr John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey says, "The rapid surface warming of the Antarctic Peninsula and the enhanced global warming signal over the whole continent shows the complexity of climate change. Greenhouses gases could be having a bigger impact in Antarctica than across the rest of the world and we don’t understand why. So far we haven’t been able to determine the mechanisms behind the warming."

"The warming above the Antarctic could have implications for snowfall across the Antarctic and sea level rise. Current climate model simulations don’t reproduce the observed warming, pointing to weaknesses in their ability to represent the Antarctic climate system. Our next step is to try to improve the models."

Daily launches of weather balloons have been carried out at many of the Antarctic research stations since the International Geophysical Year of 1957-8. The balloons carry instrument packages called radiosondes that measure temperature, humidity and winds up to heights of 20 km or more. Recently many of the old radiosonde records have been digitised and brought together in a project funded by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.