In a new study, British researchers have taken a closer look at ice loss and sharp temperature jumps in the globe’s southernmost regions.
– Changing Antarctica is bad news for the planet, says Professor Martin Siegert, who led the work.
The amount of sea ice around the continent has fallen to new record low levels in recent years. the ice that is now “missing” at the beginning of August, Compatible with Ten times the area of Great Britain.
Parts of the ice sheet are also shrinking, contributing to rising sea levels around the world.
Huge ice floe
The British Foreign Office took the initiative for the new study.
The background was that huge ice floes broke away from Antarctica more often than not, according to the report. Sky News. The largest ice floe was the size of a quarter of Wales.
At the same time, some extremely high temperatures have been recorded on the normally frozen continent. A new temperature record of 18.6 degrees was set at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in 2020.
In March last year, it was 38.5 degrees warmer than normal deep in the inner ice in East Antarctica. This is the largest temperature deviation from normal ever recorded in the world.
On the East Antarctic Ice Sheet in March it’s usually around 50°C. So even though the jump was significant, there was still a long way to go to break even.
But if something similar had happened in a warmer season, the ice sheet would have begun to melt.
If something similar had happened in London in the summer, the temperature would have risen to nearly 60 degrees, Siegert notes.
Ice sheet loss is in line with the United Nations Climate Panel (IPCC) worst-case scenario, according to Researcher Anna Hough, who also contributed to the new study.
This is despite the fact that global climatic emissions have “only” evolved in line with a more benign scenario.
The sea is rising
Melting ice in Antarctica is of great importance to the rest of the world for several reasons.
When the ice sheet melts, it contributes to sea level rise around the world. If melting accelerates, sea level rise will be greater than expected.
If there is less sea ice, more sea will be visible. A darker ocean absorbs more radiation from the sun, which can lead to more global warming.
– In the coming years, there is a real danger that Antarctica will stop serving as a cooling element for the planet, and start acting as a coolant, says Siegert.
The pace is surprising
Weather measurements in Antarctica do not extend as far back as in other parts of the world. Therefore, it is difficult to relate the extreme measurements in Antarctica directly to global warming.
That was as recently as 2014 standard quantity Sea ice in the Southern Ocean.
But the trend of development in recent years is in line with what scientists expect as the Earth’s temperature rises. What is surprising is how fast it goes.
– “Unparalleled” is a frequently used expression. But that doesn’t quite describe how shocking this was, said the researcher Will Hobbs recently spoke about the record low amounts of sea ice in recent months.
Approaching turning points
If global warming is to slow, global climate emissions must be cut sharply. There are no simple measures that can bring back the ice in Antarctica, according to Caroline Holmes of the British Antarctic Survey.
If this is possible at all, it may take several decades or several centuries.
In some cases, we are approaching tipping points. When it is exceeded, it will lead to irreversible changes with unstoppable consequences for future generations, says researcher Tim Naish of New Zealand, who was not himself involved in the work on the new study.
A large number of countries have signed the Antarctic Treaty, which, among other things, obliges countries to protect the environment in Antarctica. Martin Siegert believes that the continued extraction and burning of fossil energy sources may be in violation of the treaty.
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