December 1, 2009 – Original Source: Yale Environment 360, Yale University
Temperatures in Antarctica are expected to increase by 5.3 degrees F this century and the melting of much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could contribute to a global sea level rise of 4.5 feet by 2100, according to the most comprehensive study to date on the impact of global warming on the world’s coldest continent. The 400-page study, conducted by 100 scientists from eight countries, said that, paradoxically, the vast hole in the ozone layer over the continent has led to an increase in the westerly winds that spin around Antarctica, which has served to insulate most of the continent from warmer temperatures. The anticipated closing of the ozone hole in the next 50 years is expected to lead to a significant jump in temperatures across Antarctica. The report, prepared by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, said that the rapid warming of the Antarctic Peninsula has led to a decline in sea ice, a significant drop in krill populations dependent on the sea ice, an increase in rain, and the growth of plant communities on ground exposed by retreating glaciers. The report also said the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the largest ocean current on earth, has warmed faster than the global ocean and that as the water continues to warm alien marine species may migrate into the region.