‘If all the ice melted’ really got me to begin thinking about the effect of climate change and what would happen to the whole world as a result.
Climate change is a huge issue in modern day society and this was clarified when I typed ‘Climate Change’ into the Google search engine. Thousands of links came up instantly, now it’s impossible to view everyone but I have began to look through a number sites.
From these screen shots it’s clear to see that there is so much information on the effects and how to help resolve climate change and every day there is new information on the same sites.
Firstly, I need to find out what climate change is.
Climate change is a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns or average temperatures.
So, how is this effecting the Antarctic?
In 2007 NASA released some beautiful images on Antarctica, they’re said to be true to colour and the most accurate to date. The map has been made by 1000 Landsat photographs being stitched together to create an interactive image where you can move around the continent, zoom in and out. The video below is a short introduction and background to the image but does show a difference in ice coverage between 1988 and 2002.
Video - NASA Landsat of Antarctica
Map - Landsat Map
This image is taken from the video above. It shows the decrease in sea ice over a period of time.
Below is a map of Antarctica’s land mass without sea ice. It doesn’t particularly have anything to with climate change but it is a beautiful map of the land. The colours indicate the height from sea level revealing a series of mountain ranges and planes as well as huge lakes and rivers.
My natural hypothesis about what is happening to sea ice was that it is melting and decreasing, partly to do with what news paper and researchers are telling us but on discovering this it seems that it is the other way around.
According to NASA September 2013 the sea ice surrounding the Antarctic reached it’s annual peak, but instead of it being lower than in previous years it appears that the amount of ice is the highest ever recorded.
On further investigation it appears that Antarctica’s sea ice is increasing by 1% every decade like in the Ross Sea although some areas such as Bellingshausen have been decreasing. Antarctica’s sea ice fluctuates from year to year so although some areas are thriving others are receding. The chart below shows the average sea ice of each years summer and winter.
On this web page there is also a series of images showing the change in ice so you can see the difference from year to year.
September 1999/February 2000
September 2004/February 2005
September 2010/February 2011
September 2012/February 2013
It is clear that there is no uniform in the shape and size that the ice forms although the visible difference between the Ross Sea and Bellingshausen Sea is apparent.
In most cases climate change often is said to warm the atmosphere, so why is the sea ice in Antarctica increasing?
According to an article on Universe Today the excess sea ice is due to an increase in snow fall and rainfall along with more fresh water. Fresh water is cooler and less dense that the saltier water below so with this the ice is melting much slower and increasing more rapidly. All of these factors are to do with global warming.
When sea ice melts there is little change to the sea levels. However, when land ice melt (glaciers) it increases the earths sea levels massively and this is the problem. Although there appears to be more sea ice this does not say whether the land ice has changed at all.
Another article from Universe Today has said that Antarctica’s ice shelves are being ‘eaten away’ by a warmer ocean, due to climate change. NASA have gathered data by using an ice watching satellite that pictures the ice disappearing from the western shores. This is because the sea has warmed quicker than the air above and therefore the currents are melting the shelves from below. From October 2005 to 2008, 20 of the 54 Antarctic ice shelves have decreased in thickness.
‘Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica’ http://www.daycreek.com/dc/images/1999.pdf is an article written in 1999 describing what is happening to Antarctic ice.