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Poles warming faster than rest of the world

by Fluo & Pattern 2 years ago in habitat
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The United Nations had then urged countries to act, after what was already the highest reading on the continental Antarctic Peninsula.

Unsplash/James Rathmell

Temperatures in Antarctica hit 20.75°C on February 9, according to a team of scientists on Seymour Island, marking the first time the Polar continent has broken the 20°C barrier. Its warming reinforces concerns that melting ice could raise global sea levels by dozens of metres.

"We've been monitoring temperatures here for the past 18 years and I never even dreamed that I would one day see such high temperature in the region," Marcio Francelino, Brazilian professor and responsible for the Seymour Island station, told Brazilian newspaper Estado de São Paulo.

On February 9, the Antarctic became the latest region to break a new temperature record, two days after an already alarming peak, when the mercury hit 18.3°C at the Argentinian Esperanza research base. The United Nations had then urged countries to act, after what was already the highest reading on the continental Antarctic Peninsula.

"It's simply a signal that something different is happening in the area," scientist Carlos Ernesto Schaefer told AFP. Because "we can't use this to anticipate climate changes in the future".

'Incredible and abnormal'

"We'd never seen a temperature this high in Antarctica," said Schaeffer, who works on a Brazilian government project which monitors the impact of climate change on permafrost and biology in sites across the Atlantic. He described the new record as "incredible and abnormal".

According to British Newspaper the Guardian, the new records still need to be confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, but they are consistent with the local trend. The peninsula and nearby islands have seen their average temperature rise by almost 3°C since pre-industrial era, one of the fastest rates in the planet.

Although researchers have struggled to link individual events to climate change, scientists' scenarios have proven right so far.

Antarctic more vulnerable to sea rise.

Even taken individually, the latest temperature spike in the Polar continent is bad news.

According to a new study published February 12 by Australian researchers in the PNAS journal, Antarctica's vast western ice sheet is extremely vulnerable to sea rises.

They identified a gap in the ice sheet record between 129,000 and 116,000 years ago, meaning there had already been a melting during this period. A second one could be faster, since the previous one "was likely caused by less than 2°C ocean warming", said Christ Turney, professor in Earth and Climate Science at UNSW Sydney and lead author of the PNAS study.

Poles warming faster than rest of the world

The last decade was officially the hottest, according to records, with the last five years being the warmest ever. January 2020 was the hottest January ever witnessed.

The Earth's poles have also been warming faster than the rest of the world. Since 2006, 430 tons of ice have melted in the Arctic area and in Greenland, according to the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo.

The Brazilian scientists working on the Antarctic programme say this new temperature record appears to be influenced by changes in ocean currents but also by El Niño events.

"Many currents are dependent on cold waters coming from the Antarctic. So this kind of phenomenon causes others, and it generates turbulences in the Austral Ocean, which affects the atmospheric dynamic. The whole thing is very interrelated," Schaefer told G1.

Sea could rise by 60 metres

According to a study published on February 14 in the Earth System Dynamics review, Antarctic melting could raise sea levels by 58 centimetres by the end of the century.

But the region stores about 70 percent of the world's fresh water stock in the form of snow and ice, according to the Guardian. In case it were all to melt, sea levels could rise not only by 58 centimetres but rather by 50 to 60 metres.

"The 'Antarctica Factor' turns out to be the greatest risk, and also the greatest uncertainty, for sea-levels around the globe," lead-author Anders Levermann from the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research told AFP. It could have unpredictable consequences, threatening more than one billion people living in vulnerable areas.

Temperatures in eastern and central Antarctica are relatively stable, but this might not be the case for its Western part, past the Seymour Islands. Its Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers could melt rapidly in case of a sustained jump in temperature.

The team behind the Australian study said that rapid cuts to carbon emissions, such as stipulated in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, could help limit the loss of ice-sheet and slow the process.

But emissions creep higher every year. The world is therefore likely to have to face significant challenges to communities living at low-sea level by 2100.

"What we know for certain is that not stopping the burning of coal, oil and gas will drive up the risks for coastal metropolises from New York to Mumbai, Hamburg or Shanghai," Levermann said.

According to a new study published today in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, Antarctic animals like krill and the penguins that subsist on them might be among those most vulnerable to rising global temperatures and retreating sea ice. While other species might benefit from habitat expansion in the short term, the radical rejiggering of this delicate landscape could eventually push even the hardiest animals to the limits of survival.

Impacts on wildlife: penguins

There are about 20 million breeding pairs of penguins in the Antarctic. Some species of penguins in Antarctica are declining in numbers while others are not. The picture varies depending on where in Antarctica you are looking. Adélie penguins, a species well adapted to sea ice conditions, have declined in numbers in some areas and have been replaced at some sites by open-water species such as chinstrap penguins. Further south, emperor penguins, which breed on sea ice surrounding continental Antarctica, have also experienced a decline in numbers by up to 50% in places.

Climate change could wipe out almost all coral reef habitats around the world by 2100, according to research released Monday.

The bleak outlook forecasts that warming oceans and rising seas could have a devastating impact on ocean ecosystems, suggesting that efforts to restore dying corals will likely encounter difficulties as global warming continues to wipe out habitats that could once support healthy reef systems.

The research shows that corals are most vulnerable to changes in their environment driven by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, trap heat in the atmosphere, increasing global surface and ocean temperatures. And when carbon dioxide mixes with ocean water, the resulting chemical reactions make the water more acidic.

"By 2100, it's looking quite grim," Renee Setter, a biogeographer at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, said in a statement. She presented her findings at the annual Ocean Sciences Meeting, which is being held through Friday in San Diego.

Setter and her colleagues simulated ocean environments in which coral reefs currently exist based on projections of sea surface temperature, ocean acidification, wave energy, pollution and fishing practices. They found that by 2100, few to zero suitable habitats for corals are likely to remain.

"Honestly, most sites are out," she said in the statement.

The few sites that could support reefs by the end of the century include small parts of Baja California in Mexico and the Red Sea, according to the researchers.

The combination of warming seas and ocean acidification is already threatening coral reefs around the world, causing the ecosystems to undergo so-called bleaching events.

From 2014 to 2017, about 75 percent of the world's tropical coral reefs experienced warm conditions severe enough to trigger bleaching events, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And in 2016 and 2017, about half the coral in Australia's Great Barrier Reef died after record heat triggered mass bleaching.

Coral bleaching occurs as a response to abnormal environmental conditions, such as cooler- or warmer-than-usual ocean temperatures, or when oceans become more acidic. When stressed, corals expel tiny photosynthetic algae that live in their tissues, causing the vibrant marine invertebrates to turn completely white.

Bleaching events don't necessarily kill the corals, but the reefs become particularly susceptible to disease, and as oceans continue to warm at an accelerated pace, many reef systems are under siege.

In addition to driving tourism and boosting local economies, coral reefs are an integral part of ocean ecosystems, supporting hundreds — and sometimes thousands — of fish and other marine species. In a 2017 Deloitte Access Economics report, for instance, the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, a designated World Heritage Site, was valued at $56 billion.

Beyond climate change, coral reefs are also under threat from illegal fishing, coastal development projects and pollution.

Setter said that efforts to clean up pollution in the world's oceans and projects to restore at-risk reefs are essential but that ocean ecosystems will continue to decline if the root causes of climate change are not addressed.

"Trying to clean up the beaches is great and trying to combat pollution is fantastic. We need to continue those efforts," she said in the statement. "But at the end of the day, fighting climate change is really what we need to be advocating for in order to protect corals and avoid compounded stressors."


About the author

Fluo & Pattern

Makeup artist, fashion/beauty blogger.

Journalist, editor and writer, and body painter of events and TV show.

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