Antarctica: “Something Dramatic is Underway” Warn Authors of 150-Year Data Study

Scientists have extensively studied Arctic ice and their dynamics. Less those of Antarctica. But today, thanks to an important work of reconstruction, researchers present data going back to the beginning of the XXe century. They show unpublished diagrams, signs according to them, that “Something dramatic is happening”.

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[EN VIDÉO] Antarctic ice cover is growing
Antarctic ice cover has never been greater than in 2012, the picture proof.

Antarctica remains a difficult continent to study. Until then, scientists have lacked, for example, an image detailing the extent of sea ice in the region over the entire XXe century. But some Ohio University researchers (United States) have just published data which finally allows us to know more about the evolution of the Antarctic ice floe. This confirms that the phenomenon of an increase in its extent observed by satellite since the beginning of the 1980s is unique.

The researchers did a lot of reconstruction. On the one hand, based on data recorded over time by a small number of meteorological stations, reports of human observations and samples of ice cores and ocean sediments. And on the other hand, historical meteorological data in places further away from Antarctica. Because there is a strong link between the extent of sea ice and regional or larger-scale climate variability. The result: information available no longer on a specific region of Antarctica or at a particular time of the year, but on the whole of the continent and during the four seasons.

The precision work of researchers at the University of Ohio has shown, on the Antarctic side, since 1979, a tendency towards a slow global increase in the surface of sea ​​ice, even though it was rather on the decline since the beginning of the XXe century. Then one anomaly in 2016 and 2017 with a suddenly diminishing extent of sea ice. To finally bounce back in mid-2020 and find itself again below average at the start of 2022.

Mechanisms that remain to be understood

The researchers believe that these variations in the extent of ice floe Antarctica mark changes in our climate system. Unprecedented changes at least over the last 150 years or so. And although they do not explain, for the moment, the sudden withdrawal observed in 2016, they believe that it is a sign that “Something quite dramatic is happening”.

The latest data collected should, however, provide a better understanding of the changes taking place on the sea ice. Important changes because if the source sea ​​ice does not affect the sea ​​level, it can have consequences for ecosystems and biodiversity.

Remember that the penguins and seals that live there are a bit like the polar bears of the’Arctic. They are critically dependent on the amount of sea ice present. In addition, ocean circulation, including the formation of dense water that can flow to the ocean floor, is also linked to variations in sea ice. And “Changes in the ocean around Antarctica may have global implications”, Ryan Fogt, a geographer at Ohio University, warns in a communicated.

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