Being isolated by the southern ocean from other countries, Antarctica is situated in the Antarctic region of Southern Hemisphere. It is the fifth-largest continent and 98% of its land is covered with ice. It also happens to be the windiest, driest, and coldest country, but at the same time, it went through its first heatwave in late January of the year 2020. Global warming is the biggest reason behind the changing climatic conditions of Antarctica.
Over the past 50 years, the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula has been one of the most rapidly warming parts of the planet. This warming is not only restricted to the land but can also be noted in the Southern Ocean. The climate in the Antarctic Peninsula has warmed by three degrees meaning that that once stable ice shelves are now retreating.
Australian Antarctic Program researchers recorded the heatwave event at Casey research station in East Antarctica during the 2019-2020 southern hemisphere summers. Findings by the team were published in the Global Change Biology journal, with authors warning that the changes could affect global weather patterns. It drives the global ocean conveyor belt, a constant system of deep-ocean circulation which transfers oceanic heat around the planet, and its melting ice sheet adds to global sea-level rise.
William Detrich, professor of Biochemistry and Marine Biology in the College of Science at the Northeastern University, said that the body temperature of the marine animals matched that of the water before global warming affecting Antarctica. However, now their habitat is experiencing unprecedented and rapid warming.
In Antarctica, the krill, which is food for most of the marine animals, are also decreasing in numbers. Given the generally cold conditions of Antarctica, the warmth may have benefitted the flora (mosses, lichens, and two vascular plants) and microbes and invertebrates, but only where liquid water formed. Areas in the Vestfold Hills away from the flooding became more drought-stressed over the summer. However, Antarctica has lost 50% of its penguin population.
Therefore, Antarctica is facing advantages as well as disadvantages in the realm of global warming but the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits. If everyone doesn’t contribute towards anti-pollution measures, the wildlife in Antarctica will suffer more than they already are.