Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Antarctica’s Ice-Free Areas to Increase by 2100

Climate change will cause ice-free areas on Antarctica to increase by up to a quarter by 2100, threatening the diversity of the unique terrestrial plant and animal life that exists there, according to projections from the first study examining the question in detail.

If emissions of greenhouse gasses are not reduced, projected warming and changes in snowfall will cause ice-free areas — which currently make up about 1 percent of Antarctica and are home to all of the continent’s terrestrial plants and animals — to increase by as much as 17,000 square kilometers.

Since many of the ice-free areas on Antarctica are isolated from one another, they have acted like islands in the ocean, with the life existing in each one forming distinct groups.  As those areas expand in the future, they will become closer to one another, with many coalescing, allowing the distinct groups to mix and potentially homogenize.

By 2100, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the expansion of ice-free patches will lead to their overall number decreasing from more than 5,500 to fewer than 3,000, according to the work by Jasmine Lee from the Australian Antarctic Division and colleagues published in the journal Nature.

If emissions begin to reduce from 2040, the expansion of the patches will be limited and as many as 4,000 distinct patches could remain.

About 85 percent of the new ice-free areas will emerge in the Antarctic peninsula, which extends out into the Southern Ocean towards Chile. The Antarctic peninsula has experienced the most rapid warming in the southern hemisphere already and is predicted to see five metres of ice melt by 2100.

As a result, the Antarctic peninsula will emerge as the region of Antarctica with the most ice-free area, overtaking the Transantarctic Mountains.

Read more at Antarctica’s Ice-Free Areas to Increase by 2100

No comments:

Post a Comment