Polar ice disappearing fast

gletscherIce sheets over Antarctica and Greenland are shrinking at an incredible rate of 120 cubic miles per year, and accelerating (the rate of ice loss has more than doubled since 2009).  While part of Antarctica is actually increasing in ice cover, overall the continent is on a definite decline.  Most of the ice loss, 90 cubic miles per year, is as a result of melting in Greenland.  The data comes from the CryoSat-2 satellite measuring the altitude of the ice over the continents.  Scientists have been using satellites to measure ice levels for about twenty years now.  You can read more about this at this link.

It’s sad to see our society at such an advanced level technologically, yet turning a blind eye to this problem.  Man-made climate change is a fact and one that will have to be dealt with sooner or later.  It’ll be expensive, but the costs only go up over time.

Melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet

gletscherScientist studying the ice in Antarctica have found that a very large area, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is melting at an accelerating rate, and has already reached a point of instability, where its melting will continue regardless of any actions we take to reduce the effects of global warming.  It is past the point of no return, so to speak.  The impact of this is expected to be a global rise in seal levels of several feet (up to 10 feet, potentially) over the next couple of centuries.  Yes, that makes it a problem that won’t affect us, but we have a moral obligation to future generations to provide them with the same potential for prosperity that we enjoy.

The cause of this melting is deep, warmer water being pulled to the surface by increasingly powerful winds circling the continent (which is generally believed to be caused by global warming).  As far back as 1978, scientists were warning that global warming could lead to this…and now it’s happening (unless you’re a Republican with your head in the sand).

Read more at the NYTimes.

Century old film negatives found in Antarctica

antarcticaAlmost a century ago, Ernest Shackleton‘s Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917) left some film negatives in Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s former hut (from his failed 1912 expedition to become the first to reach the South Pole).  Amazingly, it’s taken until now for these negatives to be (re)discovered by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust.   It’s pretty cool that the negatives are in such relatively good condition, but it also makes you realize how fragile our current archiving of our lives is – we are totally dependent on relatively fragile digital media.

Read more over at CNN, or check out all the photos here.

No, that wasn’t a new type of bacteria found in Antarctica

Remember the new type of bacteria Russian scientists found in a sub-glacial lake in Antarctica?  Turns out someone jumped the gun on the announcement and they’re now saying it was actually contamination.  Whoops.  Though I still wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually discover something like this in one of the many sub-glacial lakes currently being explored down there.

New type of bacteria discovered in Antarctica

Not surprisingly, when Russian scientists drilled into an isolated subglacial lake in Antarctica that had been sealed off from the rest of the world for thousands, maybe millions, of years, they discovered and entirely new type of bacteria that didn’t resemble anything like what’s been found on this planet so far.  Amazing stuff…read more here.