Assignment 3: Climate Change in the Antarctic

Climate change is often discussed among scientists and the media because it is, of course, a major concern among environmentalists and climatologists. It has been a budding concern for many years and it is important that we understand the affects that it has on our planet. It’s a positive fact that attention is being drawn to it, but attention may not be drawn to some of the most important places that are experiencing it the most. The Antarctic is one of these places. The West Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming areas on earth (ACOC, 2).  Antarctica is separated into two geological regions: East and West. Antarctica is located in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost directly south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. Climate change is rapidly affecting this area which can later cause serious damage to our planet. If melted enough, it has the power to raise our sea level world wide by 60 meters (ACOC, 4). This area of our planet is important to focus on in regards to it’s climate change because of how much damage it can potentially cause to us.

In order to understand what is happening in Antarctica, we need to first understand what climate change actually is. Climate is the normal or “average” weather in an environment. Patterns of temperature, precipitation, and other factors play a part in what makes up an environment’s climate. Levels of CO2 and other gases that are able to trap heat have risen in our atmosphere. This makes Earth heat up, and causes polar ice to melt which then rises sea levels, brings extreme heat, storms, and floods. These changes in weather patterns due to rising heat-trapping gases all live under the umbrella of “climate change”. (Department of Ecology, 1)

A heat sink: The ASOC, Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, describes Antarctica as a powerful heat sink. It’s high ice sheet and polar location make Antarctica a powerful factor in affecting the climate of the whole Earth. As climate change occurs and the ice sheet has been found to be shrinking (slowly but surely), it has the power to raise world-wide sea level more than 60 meters if melted completely. “The amount of snow deposited annually on the ice sheet is equivalent to about 5 mm of global sea level, as is the mean annual discharge of ice back into the ocean. Thus, a modest imbalance between the input and output of ice might be a major contributor to the present-day rise in sea level (1.5–2 mm per year).” (ASOC, 4) The measuring of this data and knowledge of the input and output levels based on the mean reveals some startling evidence. It is important that we continue to monitor these levels.

In order to further take a look at the affects that climate change in the Antarctic can have on our Earth, we can use mathematical data:

  • If greenhouse gas concentrations were to double over the next century, Antarctica is expected to warm by as much as 3°C. Since 1955, upper ocean Antarctic temperatures have increased by \(0.037 \text{°C}\) at a rate of \(0.20 \text{Wm^{-2}}\). At this rate, what would Antarctic temperatures look like in 2050?

By understanding this data, we see a startling increase in Antarctic temperatures. As discussed previously, this can cause drastic polar ice melting, which will cause the world-wide sea level to rise exponentially. These extreme changes will bring us dramatic changes in weather, precipitation, and more.

Conclusion: It is difficult to pinpoint what we, as a population, can do to cater to this issue. However, there are a few things we can do as average citizens that can make a difference: Transportation. If we use other methods of transportation, like walking or cycling, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency: Changing your light bulbs to LEDs or compact fluorescents can also help reduce the effects of climate change. Composting: buried garbage in landfills produces methane gas. Composting kitchen scraps and other trimmings can help prevent this. These are only a few things we can do to help reduce climate change. With constant and steady practice of environmental health, we can reduce the effects of climate change that will, in turn, keep the temperature of the Antarctic at a stable and safe equilibrium.

Sources

Climate Change and the Antarctic – Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition.” Climate Change and the Antarctic – Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition. Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

  • Primary source; used to collect information and construct arguments with factual data given.
  • Foundation for argument; proposed thesis based on ecological statistics of climate change in the Antarctic.

Impacts of Climate Change – Discovering Antarctica.” Discovering Antarctica. British Antarctic Survey, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

  • Secondary source; gathered further data and information to support primary argument that Antarctica is a major factor in global climate change effects.

“Climate Change Education.” What Is Climate Change? | Climate Change Education | Climate Change | Washington State Department of Ecology. Washington State Department of Ecology, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

  • Educational source; used relevant information to describe the process of green house gas emissions and climate change as a whole. Information gathered from this source helps reader to understand the logistics and ecological science of the presented issue.
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