Fate of Antarctica

2014, Science  -  25 min Leave a Comment
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Antarctica, a land mass that was once bathed in tropical sunshine and housed forest life, is now the coldest continent on our planet with record-breaking low temperatures of -93.2 degrees Celsius. Could these drastic climate changes bring about the extinction of human existence and planet Earth as we know it? Does our fate depend on the survival of this continent?

Fate of Antarctica explores how the climate has drastically changed and the events that brought about these changes. The striking footage of Antarctica's powerful winds, massive icebergs and strong sea currents coupled with graphics demonstrates how the intensification of winds in northern regions have picked up speed and led to the demise of billions of layers of ice on Antarctica's western coast. By using satellite technology on a mission in 2002 called GRACE, scientists discovered that a massive meteor struck Earth's southern hemisphere, which may have aided in the breaking apart of Pangea. The shift of land masses pushed Antarctica to the southern-most pole, making it the coldest, driest and windiest place on our planet.

The GRACE mission showed that Antarctica is losing ice primarily on its western coast and in the center of the continent; while the northeastern areas are actually gaining ice. A whopping 159 billion tons of ice have been lost per year from 2010 to 2013. This massive loss is due to the intense winds and temperature differentiation from the north that are pulling warmer water to the surface, eradicating large ice shelves of west Antarctica. After drilling through 500 meters of ice, warm water was detected below that is also causing deterioration of ice.

What does the breaking apart of glaciers from Antarctica mean for the rest of the planet? As the speed in which these glaciers break apart increases, the ice sheets that lie behind them will collapse. Surprisingly, the erosion of parts of the continent is not merely due to climate change; there is movement of magma 25 kilometers below the plate that is also a big part of the glacial ice destruction. This proves to be a terrifying find: how will we stop the destruction of this frozen continent if it is completely out of our control?

Conspiracy theories and political arguments cannot downplay what is happening to this southernmost land mass. Glaciers will continue to fall, creating a domino effect for the layers of ice behind them, and sea levels will continue to rise. Soon our seaport cities, such as New York City and London, will be at risk.