Researcher at New York University said more than three decades of atmospheric data show new ways in which distant regional conditions are contributing to Antarctic climate change.
During the past few decades Antarctica has experienced dramatic climate change, with its peninsula exhibiting the strongest warming of any region on the planet, they said.
"Our findings reveal a previously unknown -- and surprising -- force behind climate change that is occurring deep in our southern hemisphere: the Atlantic Ocean," NYU doctoral student Xichen Li said. "Moreover, the study offers further confirmation that warming in one region can have far-reaching effects in another."
The scientists studied the North and Tropical Atlantic's Sea Surface Temperature variability, and found strong correlations when matching changes in the SST with subsequent changes in Antarctic climate.
They used a global atmospheric model to create a simulated warming of the North Atlantic, and the model responded, as they had suspected, by "changing" the climate in Antarctica.
"While our data analysis showed a correlation, it was the use of a state-of-the-art computer model that allowed us to see that North Atlantic warming was causing Antarctic climate change and not vice versa," study co-author David Holland said.
"From this study, we are learning just how Antarctic sea-ice redistributes itself, and also finding that the underlying mechanisms controlling Antarctic sea ice are completely distinct from those in the Arctic," he said.