Ice in the Antarctic

The most dramatic and immediate evidence of climate change is to be found at the extremes of the planet. The ice at the poles and the conditions in the tropics show most vividly how our climate is changing. Tropics are increasingly becoming deserts and the poles are losing their ice cover.

In a month’s time the latest data will be published on the extent of Arctic sea ice. I do not expect the information to be encouraging for those that hope that the earth’s climate will not change too rapidly for the worse.

Recently a study has been able to measure ice volume in the Antarctic more accurately than previously. This new measurement will provide a base to compare the volume of Antarctic ice for decades to come and we will be able, by these measurements to understand what is still largely not understood about Antarctic sea and land ice.

Our understanding of it is slowly increasing. We can measure ice using lasers from satellites and these measurements show that there are two separate processes which cause the Antarctic to lose ice. Some of the loss is due to warmer air – an obvious effect of climate change, but much of the loss is due to warm water under the ice shelf causing the ice shelf to melt from below, and causing a loss of ice.

It seems that warmer water is being driven from the India Ocean by stronger westerly winds. Stronger westerly winds are caused because of changes in air and sea oscillations caused by warmer air, so ultimately, whichever way you look at it, a warmer globe is happening and the evidence of it seems undeniable.

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