Antarctica Succumbs to Global Warming

January 22, 2009 02:57 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A new study has found that the southernmost continent is heating up just like the rest of the globe.

Temperatures in Antarctica Have Risen in Past 50 Years

New satellite data has shown that on average, Antarctica warmed on average by 0.5 degrees Celsius between 1957 and 2006, and that the planet as a whole has warmed 0.6 degrees Celsius in 50 years. Eric Steig of the University of Washington, Seattle, who led the new research published in the journal Nature, said that greenhouse gases were “contributing to the warming.”

Previously, scientists had thought that the Antarctic was getting cooler. While East Antarctica has cooled slightly over the years, temperatures on the remote West Antarctica ice sheet have risen quickly. “We had no idea what was happening there,” said Steig.

Over the years, some have maintained that the Antarctic peninsula was the only region where there was no proof of global warming. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported: “It is likely there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent (except Antarctica).”

The findings have damaged a key argument of global warming skeptics such as the deceased author Michael Crichton, who used the apparent cooling of the continent as “proof” that the danger of climate change was exaggerated.

On Monday, Reuters reported that the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica is on the verge of collapse, “with just a sliver of ice holding it in place.”

“We've come to the Wilkins Ice Shelf to see its final death throes,” said David Vaughan, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), to Reuters. Scientists say that the loss of the shelf, which encompasses thousands of square kilometers, will not necessarily mean a rise in sea levels, but could cause ice sheets on land to move and add more water to the seas.

Prince Albert of Monaco recently expressed concern about the Antarctic, saying that “there are a few alarming signs” of change in the continent, and called for more research into the matter. The prince won a 2008 award from the United Nations for his environmental efforts; he made his statements after touring northern islands in the Antarctic peninsula.

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Related Topics: Antarctic Celebrations, Arctic Ice

Reference: Antarctica research


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