Tuesday, December 1, 2009

More ice? Less ice? Both, and both matter.


So, is there more or less ice on and around Antarctica these days? The answer: yes.
Most significant to weigh in recently on the issue of climate change in the deep, deep south is the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.
The group's just published study, "Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment," found a strong warming trend over the Antarctic peninsula while the rest of the continent has cooled. And by the reckoning of the international team that produced the report, both are the results of civilization's presence on the planet.
The cooling comes from the hole in the ozone layer -- which appears to be working essentially as a vent that stovepipes out warmer air. The ozone layer also soaks up the sun's heat. So less ozone means less warmth. That factor, though, is an aberration. Worldwide efforts to curb ozone depletion have actually worked. And with the aberration of a damaged ozone layer disappearing, that cooling effect will fade.
Meantime, the researchers said the global build-up of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide have warmed the peninsula especially and the entire Southern Ocean generally.
That's led to a growth of plant species in the oceans and on the rocky coast -- some of them grasses introduced accidentally by people traveling to Antarctica.
Ice is retreating rapidly -- except where it's not.
Some 90 percent of glaciers on Antarctica have shrunken in recent decades. At the same time, there is more sea ice in areas like the Ross Sea because of the ozone effect while the warming peninsula is seeing less ice. The researchers -- a group of more than 100 from eight countries -- expect the loss of sea ice will become more universal in the southern region as the ozone layer is re-established.



8 comments:

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Great stuff, Scott.

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