Scientists have recently measured a record high of 20.75C at Seymour Island in the Antarctic. This measurement is a full degree higher than the previous record of 19.8C, taken January 1982 on Signy Island, sparking fears of climate change and the instability of the planet’s greatest repository of fresh water ice.
The new record is “incredible and abnormal,” said Carlos Schaefer, who works on Terrantar, a Brazilian government project that monitors the impact of climate change on permafrost and biology at 23 sites in the Antarctic. He added to The Guardian: “We are seeing the warming trend in many of the sites we are monitoring, but we have never seen anything like this.”
The temperature of the Antarctic Peninsula, which includes the South Shetland Islands and the James Ross archipelago, has been erratic for the last 20 years, caused by shifts in ocean currents and El Nino events. While temperatures in eastern and central Antarctica are fairly stable, there is much concern about west Antarctica, where oceans are warming dramatically and melting the huge Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers.
“We have climatic changes in the atmosphere, which is closely related to changes in permafrost and the ocean. The whole thing is very interrelated,” Schafer told The Guardian.
Impacts to Antarctica, which encompasses the land, islands, and ocean south of 60 degrees attitude, impact the entire planet. This region stores 70% of the planet’s fresh water in the form of ice and snow. Melting ice would cause sea levels to rise, which in turn would cause massive impacts on all continents. UN scientists predict that by the end of this century, oceans could be between 30cm to 110cm higher, depending on human efforts to reduce emissions and the sensitivity of ice sheets.
Monitoring Antarctica is also important because it is an early warning for other areas within the region. Schaefer added to The Guardian: “It is important to have sentinel areas like the South Shetlands and the Antarctic peninsula because they can anticipate the developments that will happen in the future, the near future.”
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