A new scientific study published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Environmental Science’ once again confirms the serious impacts of global warming in Antarctica. In February, the lowest extent of sea ice on the continent was recorded. The study explains that although it is possible to reverse the melting, it will take decades, if not centuries. But the alterations to the Antarctic ecosystem have cascading effects on the climate of the planet as a whole.
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Antarctica is not a region isolated from the effects of climate change. The scientific journal ‘Frontiers in Environmental Science’ published on August 8 a study that links global warming, caused by increased carbon dioxide emissions, with the unprecedented melting of the sea ice.
The scientists explain that there is no immediate solution, but that it is urgent to take measures to slow down the melting.
In February, the minimum extension of the Antarctic summer ice sheet was recorded, since it began to be monitored in 1978. Already last year the records marked an extension of less than two million square kilometers, the minimum recorded before this new record . In Antarctica, summer is from October to March, and winter is from March to October.
Global warming, a consequence in large part of human activities of burning fossil fuels, has made Antarctica a region more vulnerable to extreme weather events, and it is “virtually certain” that the situation will worsen, according to the study. Climate change leads to “increases in amplitude and frequency” of extreme weather events: heat waves, ice shelf collapse, and shrinking sea ice.
The loss of ice zones is a factor particularly intertwined with the consequences of global warming. In an AP analogy, if Earth lost areas of ice, it would be like trading a white T-shirt for a black one on a summer day. Those areas would then absorb the sun’s rays instead of reflecting them, thus reinforcing warming.
The study sought to understand the causes of extreme weather events. It was based on its own measurements and previous research on the patterns of weather, the ocean, the atmosphere, the cryosphere (areas of ice on the Earth’s surface), and the biosphere (areas of the Earth where living things develop) of the Antarctica.
The Antarctic continent “is not a giant frozen static in time”, instead it feels the extreme impacts of climate change “sporadic, without being able to predict it with accuracy”, according to the study.
Martin Stiegert, a glaciologist at the University of Exeter and co-author of the study, explains that based on observations, it is “scientifically reasonable” to assume that extreme weather events will intensify.
“This year’s minimum sea ice extent is 20% less than the average of the last 40 years, equivalent to a loss of ice pack ten times the area of New Zealand,” Tim Naish, director of the Research Center told Reuters. of Antarctica at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, who was not involved in the new study.
The ice pack and ice shelves, according to the AP, act as “bottle corks,” preventing glaciers from rushing into the ocean. The melting of the ice and, as a result, the rise in sea level, has direct consequences on the coasts of the rest of the continents.. These are cascading effects.
“We can withstand extreme weather events, but we cannot withstand a constant increase in these destructive events,” said University of Colorado environmental researcher Waleeb Abdalati. On the results of the study, he comments: “I am not alarmist, but what we see is alarming.”
In 2022, an atmospheric river (hot air column) coming from Australia caused Antarctic thermometers to mark record temperatures, up to 38.5 degrees Celsius above normal. It was the largest temperature variation experienced on the planet.
Antarctica, one more concern in the face of other extreme weather events
The news of the melting in Antarctica comes amid a wave of alerts about the consequences of climate change.
July 2023 was confirmed as the hottest month ever recorded on the planet. In recent weeks, wildfires have ravaged regions of North Africa, southern Europe, and Canada. Environmentalists have warned that the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of a harsh fire season. This year’s El Niño phenomenon aggravates them, by causing droughts in the tropical forest.
Despite winter in the southern hemisphere, South America is experiencing its own heat wave. High temperatures are recorded, which continue to rise, particularly in Argentina and Chile. In Bolivia, at the end of July, an extremely low level of the Titicaca River was recorded. The river’s surface fell two centimeters below the drought alert level, according to Bolivia’s National Naval Hydrographic Service.
For its part, the Asia-Pacific region suffered the consequences of typhoons Doksuri and Khanunwith serious human and infrastructure losses.
The scientific community warns that extreme weather events, intensified by climate change, are not unrelated to human activities and urge drastic actions to mitigate their effects.
In 2023, Earth’s ‘overshoot’ day came on August 2. Since that date, humanity has exhausted the natural resources that the planet is capable of generating in one year.
With AP and Reuters
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