Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Antarctica - Effects of global warming

Antarctica is Earth's southernmost and fifth largest continent with area of 14.4 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles), overlying the South Pole. About 98 % of Antarctica is covered with ice and this ice is thick in average about 1,6 kilometers (1 mile), but will it stay this thick in future? Very unlikely with the current global warming situation which affects Antarctica much more than other continents because of the continent's icy mass. This particularly applies to Antarctic Peninsula that is warming five times more than average.

Melting of the ice causes sea level increase and the biggest ice melting so far (according to NASA) happened in 2005 when a mass of ice about the size of California briefly melted and refrozed as the result of high temperatures. The area of Antarctic Peninsula had significant increase in annual average temperature at about 2,5 °C in the past 50 years which is almost three times faster than in the rest of the world.

Global warming especially affects the area of Antarctic Peninsula.

But ice melting isn't the only problem in Antarctica, there is a giant ozone hole over Antarctica that continues to grow as we speak and was caused with the emission of chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere. Ozone layer protects Earth from dangerous UVB ultraviolet light from the Sun by absorbing it. Very high UVB levels have some very damaging effects on human health, particularly in form of skin cancer.

Collapsing of ice shelves is really a trend in Antarctic Peninsula and this negative trend will continue in future too as scientists agree that temperature of Antarctica will rise over the next 50 years causing even more collapsing and sea level increase. Life on Antarctica is also affected since for instance in last 30 years Adelie Penguin populations shrunk by more than 30 % because of Antarctica's changed weather conditions.

As said before Antarctic area is extremely sensitive to global warming because of its icy mass and therefore deserves special attention when talking about current ecological problems. Many agree that global warming is currently ecological problem No.1, and if we accept this fact than we really have to do something with areas like Antarctica and its opposite Africa that are least to blame for global warming, but ironically mostly exposed to global warming effect.

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