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Ice in Antarctica Disappearing

Posted January. 26, 2005 23:09,   


A British Antarctic inspection team found large areas of grassland in several areas of Antarctic Peninsula in December of last year. Previously, these areas were all covered with ice, making it hard to see any form of vegetation. The ice that was covering Antarctica is melting fast due to global warming. It has been confirmed that the ice shelves of a size seven times larger than Korean peninsula have collapsed. Scientists around the world have their nerves on edge because of their thoughts on how the melted ice will affect the current global ecosystem.

Antarctica is getting warmer-

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that ice shelves around the Antarctic Peninsula are currently collapsing. The Antarctic Peninsula stretches towards the South American continent, and it is located in the northernmost area of the South Pole, resulting in the continent’s highest temperatures.

After the “Larsen A” ice shelf located to the right of the Antarctic Peninsula collapsed in 1995, the Wilkins ice shelf located nearby collapsed in 1998. Following that, in the beginning of 2002, because the “Larsen B” ice shelf, 3250km² in area, broke in half, numerous icebergs were scattered in the Weddell Sea. This was the biggest collapse in the area in 30 years.

Dr. Eric Steig, a U.S. glacier scholar, said, “The temperature in the Antarctic peninsula, along with the Yukon in Canada, is rising fast.” It has been reported that during the last 10 years, the average temperature of the Yukon has risen two degrees, manipulating genes such as hastening the delivery time of red squirrels.

The New York Times reported that the outflow of three glaciers in Antarctica during 2002-2003 has become eight times faster. Similar indications are found in other areas in Antarctica and on the other side of the earth, the Arctic. In the Arctic, it has been found that the permafrost layer has melted down and the height of the glaciers has drastically decreased.

How will this affect the global ecosystem?-

The ice shelves will block glaciers from meeting the ocean, acting as a cork in a bottle preventing liquid from spilling over. When an ice shelf collapses, it will cause the speed of glacier outflow to get faster, resulting in a rise in sea level.

The Times reported that the glaciers floating in the Amundsen Sea have enough ice to raise the sea level 1.3m. If the sea level rises, it will cause low-level regions to submerge and weather changes.

There are different opinions of the cause behind the melting of the glaciers and ice shelves in Antarctica. It has not been revealed if this is due to the rise of either the temperature of the atmosphere or the ocean or a combination of both factors.

The ice sheet is an enormous piece of ice which covers the continent. The ice shelf is part of an ice sheet that has protruded above the ocean surface. As the ice shelf collapses, big and small icebergs start to form. A glacier refers to the piece of ice that slowly floats towards low-level areas such as rivers.

Jin Lee leej@donga.com