Imagine a huge slab of ice with an area of about 200 square miles – if it was ever to melt it would release torrents of water into the oceans. The problem is that it already is melting – scientists with the British Antarctic Survey discovered last week that an iceberg that big has just broken away from a major Antarctic ice sheet. Now that the ice has been separated from the ice sheet, it will quickly disintegrate, and before long it will all have melted.
OK, so this iceberg might raise sea levels a fractional amount. But does it really mean anything in terms of the big picture? Or did the media just hype up the story to bring in some more page hits and viewers? Although this event alone is not going to be devastating for our planet, the fact that it happened raises a whole load of worrying issues.
For a start, it’s clear evidence that Antarctica is warming faster than pretty much anywhere else on our planet. Aside from melting ice, why does that matter? Well, it certainly does matter – already, the population of krill (tiny shrimp-like creatures) has been dropping quite substantially because of the warmer waters. Krill is the primary food of loads of other marine organisms, so kill the krill and you’re also killing a multitude of species of fish.
Another effect that’s fascinating is that the warmer Antarctica gets, the more it snows, and that snow decreases the chance of penguin eggs hatching successfully. What? Rising temperatures increase snowfall? I know it sounds weird, but it’s true – warmer temperatures give the air a higher humidity, causing more snow to fall.
Carbon Dioxide, the gas the virtually all scientists believe is causing global warming, is also having a direct effect on animals, not just by increasing the temperatures. Water is really good at absorbing that dreaded greenhouse gas, but this has the unfortunate consequence of turning the water more acidic. That then means that organisms with shells get their shells weakened by the acid, as well as suffering loads of other knock-on effects. (Read more about the effects of acidic waters in my previous post – aptly named ‘Climate Change won’t just kill Polar Bears’)
You might think that this post was a bit depressing – but that’s not how I want you to feel. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to do something, and make you realize that you yourself can play a big part in stopping climate change going too far. I know we are capable of doing it, but can we be bothered? Can you be bothered? Go on, give it a try. 🙂
Filed under: Exploration, Nature, Science | Tagged: antarctic ocean, Antarctica, climate change, Environment, global warming, green, ice, ice cap, ice caps, ice sheet, ice sheets, krill, penguin, penguins, snow, southern ocean, water |