As the ice-free areas expand, the distances between them will decrease, giving plants and animals more opportunity to spread through the landscape. On the Antarctic Peninsula, which has already warmed more than anywhere else in Antarctica, many of the ice-free patches will expand so much that they will start joining together.
Will this increase in habitat availability benefit the plants and animals that live there? It will definitely provide new opportunities for some native plants and animals to expand their range and colonise new areas. The warming climate may also give a boost to species that are currently hampered by the lack of warmth, nutrients and water.
However, the potential benefits seem likely to be outweighed by the negatives. The joining-up of habitat patches could allow species that have been isolated for much of their evolutionary past to meet suddenly. If the newcomers to a particular area outcompete the native species, then it may lead to localised extinctions. Over the coming centuries this could lead to the loss of many plants and animals, and the homogenisation of Antarctica’s ecosystems.
The countries that decide the fate of Antarctica’s waters reached an historic agreement on Friday to create the world’s largest marine protected area in the ocean next to the frozen continent.
The agreement comes after years of diplomatic wrangling and high-level talks between the U.S. and Russia, which has rejected the idea in the past.
The coldest place on Earth just got warmer than has ever been recorded.
According to the weather blog Weather Underground, on Tuesday, March 24, the temperature in Antarctica rose to 63.5°F (17.5C) — a record for the polar continent. Part of a longer heat wave, the record high came just a day after the previous record was set at 63.3°F.
Arctic sea ice has passed its minimum summer extent, say polar experts meeting in London.
The cover on 17 September dipped to 5.01 million sq km, and has risen slightly since then, suggesting the autumn re-freeze has now taken hold.
This year’s minimum is fractionally smaller than last year (5.10 million sq km), making summer 2014 the sixth lowest in the modern satellite record.
The Antarctic, in contrast, continues its winter growth.
It is still a few weeks away from reaching its maximum, which will continue the record-setting trend of recent years.
Ice extent surrounding the White Continent has just topped 20 million sq km.
Extreme climate is appearing at the Poles.
Antarctica glaciers melting because of global warming may push up sea levels faster than previously believed, potentially threatening megacities including New York and Shanghai, researchers in Germany said.
Antarctica’s ice discharge may raise sea levels as much as 37 centimeters (14.6 inches) this century if the output of greenhouse gases continues to grow, according to a study led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The increase may be as little as 1 centimeter, they said.
“This is a big range, which is exactly why we call it a risk,” Anders Levermann, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “Science needs to be clear about the uncertainty so that decision makers at the coast and in coastal megacities can consider the implications in their planning processes.”