East Antarctica glacial stronghold melting as seas warm

East Antarctica glacial stronghold melting as seas warm

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 11, 2018 SNIP: A group of glaciers spanning an eighth of the East Antarctica coastline are being melted by the warming seas, scientists have discovered. This Antarctic region stores a vast amount of ice, which, if lost, would in the long-term raise global sea level by tens of metres and drown coastal settlements around the world. Freezing temperatures meant the East Antarctica region was until recently considered largely stable but the research indicates that the area is being affected by climate change. East Antarctica is extremely remote and relatively little studied. What happens to the glaciers will depend on how exposed to warmer water they are, and that depends on the shape of the land beneath them and the sea bed ahead of them. The discovery could mean much higher sea level rises than anticipated, said Chris Fogwill, a professor at Keele University in England, who was not part of the Nasa...
Modest warming risks ‘irreversible’ ice sheet loss, study warns

Modest warming risks ‘irreversible’ ice sheet loss, study warns

SOURCE: NewsAsia DATE: November 13, 2018 SNIP: Even modest temperature rises agreed under an international plan to limit climate disaster could see the ice caps melt enough this century for their loss to be “irreversible”, experts warned on Monday (Nov 12). Scientists have known for decades that the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are shrinking, but it had been assumed that they would survive a 1.5-2°C temperature rise relatively intact. However, according to a new analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change, even modest global warming could cause irreversible damage to the polar ice, contributing to catastrophic sea level rises. “We say that 1.5-2°C is close to the limit for which more dramatic effects may be expected from the ice sheets,” Frank Pattyn, head of the department of geosciences, Free University of Brussels and lead study author, told AFP. His team crunched data on annual temperature rises, ice sheet coverage and known melt levels and found that both Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets would reach a “tipping point” at around 2°C. “The existence of a tipping point implies that ice-sheet changes are potentially irreversible – returning to a pre-industrial climate may not stabilise the ice sheet once the tipping point has been crossed,” said Pattyn. Many models of the 1.5-2°C scenario allow for the threshold to be breached in the short term, potentially heating the planet several degrees higher, before using carbon capture and other technologies to bring temperatures back into line by 2100. The study warned against this approach, however, saying that a feedback loop set off by higher temperatures would “lead to self-sustained melting of...
Antarctic’s future in doubt after plan for world’s biggest marine reserve is blocked

Antarctic’s future in doubt after plan for world’s biggest marine reserve is blocked

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 2, 2018 SNIP: A plan to turn a huge tract of pristine Antarctic ocean into the world’s biggest sanctuary has been rejected, throwing the future of one of the Earth’s most important ecosystems into doubt. Environmental groups said Russia, China and Norway had played a part in blocking the proposal, with the other 22 members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the organisation set up to protect Antarctic waters, backing the proposal. The 1.8m sq km reserve – five times the size of Germany – would have banned all fishing in a vast area of the Weddell Sea and parts of the Antarctic peninsula, safeguarding species including penguins, killer whales, leopard seals and blue whales. Experts said it would also have played a key role in tackling climate change, as the seas around the Antarctic soak up huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But following days of talks in Hobart in Tasmania, the CCAMLR rejected the plan, which needed unanimous agreement to pass. The failure to create new protected zones in the Antarctic Ocean comes amid increasing evidence of humans’ devastating impact. “This was an historic opportunity to create the largest protected area on earth in the Antarctic: safeguarding wildlife, tackling climate change and improving the health of our global oceans,” said Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign. “Twenty-two delegations came here to negotiate in good faith but, instead, serious scientific proposals for urgent marine protection were derailed by interventions which barely engaged with the science.” She said that rather than put forward “reasoned opposition...
An Enormous Iceberg Is Threatening to Break Off Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier

An Enormous Iceberg Is Threatening to Break Off Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier

SOURCE: Science Alert DATE: October 10, 2018 SNIP: Antarctica’s Pine Island glacier could soon lose another massive chunk of ice, with signs of a 30 kilometre (19 mile) long crack appearing along its surface. Only a year ago a 260 square kilometre (100 square mile) iceberg split free from the glacier – the fifth large calving event this century. That makes this one a potential number six, reflecting an alarming trend that could eventually have an impact on rising sea levels. There are still roughly 10 kilometres of ice connecting the prospective iceberg to the end of the glacier; once that breaks free in the coming weeks or months, it will be a monstrous 300 square kilometre (115 square mile) island adrift in the Antarctic’s oceans. These types of iceberg calvings are also starting to happen more often than we’d expect, in line with a rise in the rate of melting ice in West...
Climate change kills Antarctica’s ancient moss beds

Climate change kills Antarctica’s ancient moss beds

SOURCE: BBC DATE: September 25, 2018 SNIP: Emerging from the ice for a brief growing season every Antarctic summer, the lush green mosses of East Antarctica are finally succumbing to climate change. That is according to a study of the small, ancient and hardy plants – carried out over more than a decade. This revealed that vegetation in East Antarctica is changing rapidly in response to a drying climate. The findings are published in the journal Nature Climate Change. “Visiting Antarctica, you expect to see icy, white landscapes,” said lead scientist Prof Sharon Robinson from the University of Wollongong, in Australia. “But in some areas there are lush, green moss beds that emerge from under the snow for a growing period of maybe six weeks.” While West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula are some of the fastest warming places of the planet, East Antarctica has not yet experienced much climate warming, so the scientists did not expect to see much change in the vegetation there. “But we were really surprised when we saw how fast it was changing,” Prof Robinson said. The researchers say this is the first study to show that the plants in East Antarctica are being affected by climate change and ozone depletion. “The mosses are our sentinel for the whole...