The Fate of Antarctica

Right now, much of the top of the world is smoked out. NASA satellites have observed what looks like a vortex of smoke swirling over Siberia, which has been on fire for weeks. Multiple satellites in orbit have been monitoring huge plumes of smoke from wildfires in parts of Russia, including Siberia, as well as Canada and Alaska. For the past few months now, scientists with Europe’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) have been keeping an eye on over 100 fires above the Arctic Circle, all pumping pollution into the sky. As of now, we don’t actually have that much evidence on the fires in Antartica.

 

But what we do know is what would happen if Antartica thawed. What do you think would happen if it completely melted?

 

Of course, the consequences of Antartica melting would be similar to if we cleared the Amazon as the effects would contribute to the ongoing issues of global warming and climate change. 98% of Antartica’s surface is smothered under a massive ice sheath with an average dept of 1.6 kilometres and despite how big/small Antartica looks on the map, it is actually the fifth-largest continent in the world  (14 million square kilometres). Antartica is made up of 26.5 million cubic kilometres of ice, that is if you disregard the land underneath. 

 

That’s a lot. 

 

Antartica actually contains 70% of the Earth’s freshwater so if it would all melt from global warming, there would be serious repercussions. Primarily, if it already wasn’t obvious, sea levels would increase by 60 metres. This would result in widespread flooding, and anywhere near a coast would not be safe. In total, anywhere between 1 to 2 billion people could be displaced by this event. Secondly, the freshwater from Antartica would affect and alter the salinity of the seawater. Consequently, this would damage several marine populations and ecosystems and could even force species (like coral) into extinction as they may not be able to adapt to freshwater. However, more importantly, if the salinity of the water decreased, that means that the density of the water has also decreased which in turn would disrupt ocean currents. This would throw off the entire circulation of water throughout the ocean and the atmosphere. The circulation of the sea is such that cold water (as it is less dense) will flow at the surface and warmer water will sink down to the bottom (as it is denser). In countries near the equator, cooler water flows to… well, cool the region down, which is why the water in the northern and southern hemisphere is a lot warmer. So if the seawater becomes less dense due to the decrease in salinity, it means that there wouldn’t be a structured way to detect ocean currents. This, in turn, would affect our weather. The ocean and air act like heat engines, which move heat to the poles in a constant quest for balance. This disrupts the overall heat flow, thus causing massive hurricanes which countries like Puerto Rico the Philippines have been experiencing. (the reason this happens is that there is no ice to limit the amount of moisture that moves from the ocean to the atmosphere and create these super tornados.) 

 

So, aside from losing several cites like Seoul, Korea, the river basin in the Amazon and other coastal regions, we would have to face a drastic increase in the number of natural disasters as well as global warming and climate change. This would worsen the condition of the planet as it would destroy the balance of nature which is an irreversible change. Additionally, countries which do not have stable economies (ie, South American, Asian and African countries) would have difficulty in surviving these extreme environmental changes due to the lack of resources. 

 

The problem seems too vast and there doesn’t seem to be any possible solutions. 

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