The researchers said that the water surrounding Antarctica has stayed roughly the same temperature even as temperatures across the country continue to warm,.
For the study, the researchers observed different climate models to suggest that the reason for this inconsistency is due to the unique currents around Antarctica that continually pull deep, old water up to the surface.
"With rising carbon dioxide you would expect more warming at both poles, but we only see it at one of the poles, so something else must be going on," said Kyle Armour of the University of Washington and lead author of the study. "We show that it's for really simple reasons, and ocean currents are the hero here."
"The old idea was that heat taken up at the surface would just mix downward, and that's the reason for the slow warming," Armour said. "But the observations show that heat is actually being carried away from Antarctica, northward along the surface."
Dyes were used by the researchers in model simulations to show that the seawater that has experienced the most climate change typically congregates around the North Pole, while situation at Antarctica never changed. "The oceans are acting to enhance warming in the Arctic while damping warming around Antarctica," Armour said. "You can't directly compare warming at the poles, because it's occurring on top of very different ocean circulations," he added.
The findings were published in Monday's issue of Nature Geoscience.