Glacial melting is sounding the alarm of global warming in Antarctica, one of the world’s most rapidly warming areas over the past fifty years.
Antarctica has experienced air temperature increases of 3°C in the Antarctic Peninsula. Studies show that the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is warming at a higher speed than the global ocean as a whole.
Researchers suggest that the situation has reached a critical point where glacial melting will accelerate and become irreversible. Nasa’s study found that Thwaites glacier could probably flow into the sea and generate a fifty centimeters rise in sea level. Other glaciers are in a similar situation.
Global warming is making significant changes to both living and physical environments. The permafrost, which had initially been resilient to warming in the Pole region, is now starting to melt. The measurements confirm that some areas are melting ten times more rapidly than ever before known.
Most recent researches have found that the rate of ice loss from Antarctic glaciers has doubled in the last six years and is now five times faster than in the 1990s, creating a significant reduction in thickness at some sites of up to 100 meters. Satellite data has shown that Antarctica has lost as much sea ice in the last four years as the Arctic lost in the last thirty-four years.
While this change is concerning for various reasons, it holds the potential to affect both animals and humans significantly. We’re starting to feel the effect through the food chain since the changing habitat has already impacted many species of animals that rely on Antarctica’s cold temperatures for survival. Though the full effects are unknown, it is expected to threaten crops, livestock, and aquatic species. These changes can, in turn, affect the availability of food, driving up prices and possibly even making some foods unattainable.
For those that travel around Antarctica for fishing or recreational purposes, the rising ocean will significantly change its weather patterns. Regions and channels known to be safe may become dangerous, a problem that will impact shipping lanes and cause delays. Overall, the two primary changes that we, as humans, will experience are potential food scarcities and higher costs for products obtained overseas.
Antarctica is home to animal colonies, which are now in danger with rising temperatures. The distribution of these colonies has already been affected. We will see a decrease in their numbers over time, and some species may even become extinct. As the sea ice conditions keep altering, the distribution of penguin has changed. Melting of perennial snow and ice covers gave way to increased colonization by plants. A decline in Antarctic krill abundance may be associated with reduced sea ice cover and reduced provision for animals that depend on this species to feed. Massive changes have occurred in the ice cover of the Peninsula. Many glaciers and ice shelves have retreated in recent years, and some have collapsed completely.
Furthermore, many seals and whales are dependent on the sheets of ice for their food and reproductive purposes. They are in danger of not having access to these sheets, which will also decrease their life expectancy. The minke whale and orca are, particularly in jeopardy.
The study suggests that those losses in ice can’t be regained, even if temperatures return to preindustrial levels. The simulations indicate that temperatures would need to drop to at least 1 degree Celsius below preindustrial times for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to regrow to its modern extent.
Global warming in Antarctica is a significant danger, posing a real but sad example of how the rest of the world may be affected. Keeping an open mind and staying informed will help us find ways to contribute individually, as families, and at community levels. Our contribution is more critical than ever; finding local solutions will help with this global crisis. Our responsibility is not only with our planet, the only home we know but with all generations to come.