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ANTARCTICA
 

Antarctica is made up of ice 4.8 kilometres thick, which contains 90% of the world’s fresh water. If it were all to melt, experts say sea levels would rise by 60 metres. Temperatures in Antarctica have reached a record high, hitting an unprecedented 17.5C (March 2017)  link  Antarctica is an enormous frozen continent that covers about 20% of the southern hemisphere. It is the driest, windiest continent on Earth, covered by ice that can reach 4km deep..
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Latest news:

April 3 2018: Warm ocean water is melting Antarctica from below, destabilising its ice sheets and contributing to sea level rise. A new study has used satellite data to determine how much underwater ice is melting, allowing researchers to map the retreat of the “grounding lines”, where large floating ice shelves connect to the layer of bedrock underneath Antarctica. These shelves can be particularly vulnerable to collapse as sea water melts them from beneath.The most alarming change was seen in West Antarctica, where over a fifth of the entire ice sheet had retreated rapidly across the sea floor – outpacing the rate of overall melting above. link

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Below
  • General information
  • Larsen-C ice shelf
  • Ice loss
  • Warming from below
  •  . . .  and penguins
Page on the Arctic
Page on Greenland

Page on Glaciers
 
 

  General information

The West coast of the Peninsula is warming at a rate 2 or 3 times faster than the global average. The average annual temperature of this region has increased about 2.5C in the last 50 years. However, data on temperatures in Antarctica only really go back about 50 years, anything beyond that is surmised from ice cores or other sources and so we don't really know how the temperatures vary over even the medium term in Antarctica. The Antarctic Peninsula also represents only about 4% of the whole continent, the other 96% appears to have had a stable temperature over the last 40 years to the extent where the most remarkable aspect is the stability compared to other parts of the world. link   

August 2017: World's largest volcanic range may lurk beneath Antarctic ice. West Antarctica's vast ice sheet conceals what may be the largest volcanic region on earth, research has revealed. The continent's ice covers more than 90 discovered previously unknown volcanoes which range in height from 100 to 3850 metres. The peaks are concentrated in a region known as the West Antarctic Rift System, spanning 3,500 kilometres from Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf to the Antarctic Peninsula. Volcanic activity may increase if Antarctica's ice thins, which is likely in a warming climate, scientists say. link

March 2017: Antarctic ice has set an unexpected record. Still waiting for the final numbers, but it is abundantly clear that the sea ice ringing the Antarctic continent has fallen precipitously reaching a record low. In 38 years of records dating back to 1979, the sea ice lows seen as of the end of February 2017, a time of year when ice in the Antarctic is at its annual minimum,  are unprecedented. The area of ocean covered by sea ice still appears to be shrinking, but as of Feb. 28, there were just 2.131 million square kilometers of floating ice surrounding Antarctica, according to data provided by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. link

October 2016: Antarctic glacier biggest threat to rising sea levels. The glacier in question, named Thwaites, is a linchpin of the West Antarctic ice sheet. It is larger than Pennsylvania and presents a 75-mile-long front to the ocean, in this case the Amundsen Sea. Recent studies have suggested that warm waters at extreme depths are causing a major glacial retreat that could be “unstoppable,” in the words of NASA. link 

April 2013: Summer ice is melting at a faster rate in the Antarctic than at any time in the last 1,000 yearslink

August 2009: One of the largest glaciers in Antarctica is thinning four times faster than it was 10 years ago. A study of satellite measurements of Pine Island glacier in west Antarctica reveals the surface of the ice is now dropping at a rate of up to 16m a year. Since 1994, the glacier has lowered by as much as 90 meters, which has serious implications for sea-level rise. Calculations based on the rate of melting 15 years ago had suggested the glacier would last for 600 years. But the new data points to a lifespan for the vast ice stream of only another 100 yearslink  

 Larsen C ice shelf

July 2017:
Five things to know about the trillion tonne iceberg. The collapse of the Larsen C will not lead to significant sea-level rise, but it could be a signal that other major changes are on the way. link  

January 2017: Biggest ever ice-shelf about to break off. A vast iceberg with an area almost the size of Delaware is poised to break off Antarctica. Ice shelves are areas of ice floating on the sea, several hundred metres thick, at the end of glaciers. A rift, slowly developing across the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula in recent years, expanded abruptly last month – it is now more than 80 km long with just 20 km left before it snaps, scientists said. link  
Larsen B ice-shelf.
 Ice shelves themselves do not contribute directly to sea level rise because they are floating on the ocean and they already displace the same volume of water. But when the ice shelves collapse the glaciers that feed them speed up and get thinner, so they supply more ice to the oceans. Study on Larsen B 

July 2017: Scientists know how big the Larsen C iceberg will be. Information now shows the iceberg will average about 625 feet in thickness, and with surface area of 2,550 square miles, will contain roughly 277 cubic meters of ice. Its size is equivalent to covering all 50 U.S. states to a thickness of 4.6 inches. The iceberg-to-be represents approximately 10% of the ice shelf’s area, and could accelerate the rate of sea-level rise by unleashing a torrent of ice currently clinging to the Antarctic Peninsula. link  

 Ice  loss

June 2016: Long overlooked area of Antarctica sees major ice loss. Over the past few years, the evidence has piled up that glaciers in parts of Antarctica have been melting and retreating at an increasingly worrying, and potentially unstoppable, pace. Now, new research shows that glaciers in a region of West Antarctica that has received relatively little attention to date have lost a considerable amount of ice. And that ice melt and retreat has been going on for decades, longer than previously thought. link

May 2016: Antarctic ‘sleeping giant’ glacier may lift sea levels two metres. The rapidly melting Totten Glacier (roughly the size of France) in East Antarctica is on track to lift oceans at least two metres, and could soon pass a "tipping point" of no return say researchers. To date, scientists have mostly worried about the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets as dangerous drivers of sea level rise. But the new study has identified a third major threat to hundreds of millions of people living in coastal areas around the world. link 

May 2016:
Antarctica losing 92 billion tons of ice per year. The latest data 
from the GRACE project, twin satellites that measure mass using gravity data, say Antarctica is losing about 92 billion tons of ice per year, with that rate having doubled from 2003 to 2014.  Antarctica is vast, 1.5 times the size of the United States, with ice three miles thick in places, and holds enough ice to raise global sea levels by roughly 200 feet.  link

February 2016: Another troubling fact about Antarctica’s ice. In a new study, researchers provide a new way of looking at how vulnerable Antarctica’s ice is, and it largely reinforces the conclusions of prior studies. To understand the new research, you first have to understand a truly astonishing feature of Antarctica that is virtually without rival anywhere else - it is ringed with gigantic ice shelves. These are sometimes country-sized sheets of ice extending out over the surface of the ocean and floating on top of it. link

May 2015: Antarctic peninsula in ‘dramatic’ ice loss. The ice streams were broadly stable up until 2009, since when they have been losing on the order of 56 billion tonnes of ice a year to the ocean. The total loss of ice per year is about 60 cubic km. link

May 2014: West Antarctica ice sheet collapse will change world's coastline. The sea level rise caused by west Antarctica collapsing will change the coastline of the whole world. It's long been known there's this potential threat. But until now, it wasn't clear if the ice sheet there was genuinely unstable. They're talking about a whole extra chunk of sea level rise which wasn’t included in the recent IPCC report, and if you take the higher numbers here it doubles previous sea level rise expectations. link

April 2013: Summer ice is melting at a faster rate in the Antarctic than at any time in the last 1,000 yearslink

November 2012: Ice loss study definitive. More than 4 trillion tonnes of ice from Greenland and Antarctica has melted in the past 20 years and flowed into the oceans, pushing up sea levels, according to a study that provides the best measure to date of the effect climate change is having on the earth's biggest ice sheets. The study shows the melting of the two giant ice sheets has caused the seas to rise by more than 11mm in 20 years. It also found Greenland is losing ice mass at five times the rate of the early 1990s. link

September 2012: Climate Central reports sea ice around Antarctica is growing (while ice sheets melt accelerates). The overall extent of Antarctic ice has grown by about 1% per decade on average, since satellite records began a little over 30 years ago. The 1% growth per decade in the Antarctic pales next to the much faster 15.5% drop per decade in the Arctic. They aren’t even in the same ballpark. Not only that: while the sea ice bordering Antarctica has been growing slightly, the massive ice sheets that sit directly atop the frozen continent are shrinking at an accelerating rate, with worrisome implications for global sea level rise. link  

January 2010: Major Antarctic glacier is 'past its tipping point' and is irreversibly on track to lose 50% of its ice in as little as 100 years, significantly raising global sea levels. link 

 Warming from below

January 2018: Antarctica is melting from below - and it’s getting worse. Based on 23 years of satellite data from the West Antarctic ice shelves, the study published in Nature Geoscience revealed that a strong El Niño event causes the shelves to lose more ice from melting beneath than they gain back from snowfall on top of it. link

August 2012: Antarctic may host methane stores. A vast reservoir of the potent greenhouse gas methane, that could amount to 4 billion tonnes, may be locked beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, a study suggests. The gas could be released into the atmosphere if enough of the ice melts away, adding to global warming. Research indicates that ancient deposits of organic matter may have been converted to methane by microbes living in low-oxygen conditions. The organic material dates back to a period 35m years ago when the Antarctic was much warmer than it is today and teeming with life. link

 Penguins

Decline of penguins in Antarctica linked with climate change
Over the past 50 years, the population of Antarctic emperor penguins has declined by 50%. Using the longest series of data available, researchers have shown that an abnormally long warm spell in the Southern Ocean during the late 1970s contributed to a decline in the population of emperor penguins at Terre Adelie, Antarctica. "We knew since the 1980s that emperor penguins had declined, but it is only today, because of the improvements of our knowledge in the climate-ocean processes, that we have been able to understand why they have decreased," said Henri Weimerskirch of the French National Center for Scientific Research in France. 
Warmer air and sea surface temperatures in the Antarctic reduce the amount of ice in the sea. This, in turn, leads to smaller populations of krill, a shrimp-like 
crustacean that is a staple of the emperor penguin's diet. With less food to eat, emperor penguins die. Despite the findings that show a negative effect of global warming on emperor penguin populations, Weimerskirch cautions against making generalizations about the impacts of climate change on wildlife. For example, a reduction in the amount of sea ice is favorable to Adelie penguins, he said. On the other hand, elephant seals and some albatross species were also negatively affected by the prolonged warming period in the 1970s . link         
August 2016: New research shows penguins will suffer in a warming world - link
More about Antarctic penguins - link  

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