Antarctica, one of the most remote and desolate locations on Earth also functions as one of the world’s main cooling systems. However, after decades of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, parts of the continent are now warming faster than anywhere else on the planet.
Over the years, climate change has led to increased erosion of the continent, altered ocean currents and affected wildlife. Warmer currents are now flowing further south, towards the icy terrain, contributing to glacial melt, rising sea levels and drastically changing habitats.
We certainly do know enough to say we need to act now, we should have acted yesterday
To understand how the region is changing, a group of 55 scientists commissioned by the Swiss Polar Institute have boarded the research vessel, Academic Treshnikov, to conduct 22 experiments around the continent. The scientists are working hard to study a range of phenomena related to climate change by analysing sea creatures, rocks, and more.
It is hoped their research will shed light on the effects the changes to this landscape will have on all of us.
Chief scientist David Walton stresses the significance of the signs the seas are giving. “Antarctic sea ice is actually changing in terms of its distribution and pattern, the sea is warming off the Antarctic Peninsula, glaciers are retreating, Arctic sea ice is at its lowest yet known. These are all indications that the world as a whole is warming and that we need to be concerned about the future.”
Even though their research will take around a year to complete, the scientists remain firm in their conviction that the international community needs to take immediate action to counter climate change. “We certainly do know enough to say we need to act now, we should have acted yesterday,” says Julia Schmale, an atmospheric scientist at the Paul Scherrer Institute, “There is not much time to postpone action into the future – I think we are very clear about this.”
Tarek Bazley joins the group in Hobart and sets off on a month-long journey around Antarctica.
Satellite images courtesy of European Space Agency.