Antarctica Melting: Climate Change Part Three

Mallory Greenamyer, Junior Staff Writer

9,072 miles away in a frigid place known as Antarctica, sheets of ice are melting at an alarming rate. This sacred place, home to over 200 different species of animals, is vital to the well being of Earth. The media has covered stories about climate change in the Arctic Ocean, but often fails to talk about the problems specifically in Antarctica. The ice melting may not seem very important to a person who lives so far away; however, in time, this change will negatively affect every living organism.

Split into two parts, Antarctica is unique geographically. The Trans-Antarctic mountain range is the midpoint between East and West Antarctica. The West Antarctic ice sheet is one of the biggest threats to the environment. According to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, this ice sheet “contains sufficient ice to raise world-wide sea levels by more than 60 meters if melted completely.” Every year around 5 mm of snow gathers on these ice sheets along with an equal amount breaking back off into the ocean. This balance of input and output is very important to the sea levels around the world. However, because of climate change, more ice is melting into the ocean than necessary, causing sea levels to rise. 

Some may be thinking, what does rising sea levels mean for the rest of the world? According to National Geographic, increasing sea levels can cause destructive erosion, wetland flooding, and lost habitat for many different types of animals along coastal areas. The problem may be rooted in a place very far away; however, the consequences can be felt all over the world. As a result of flooding, thousands of people often times are forced to relocate to higher ground and leave their homes. The Internet is also greatly affected by these floods because several communication pathways are in the middle of areas of destruction. As a result of ice melting in Antarctica, places all over the world are facing danger. If this pattern continues, these horrific events will only occur more often. Freshman Jason Lambert says that he never realized that Antarctica had such an important role in the Earth’s climate .  He added, “I think it’s cool how everything is interconnected.”

Organisms across Antarctica are also affected by the change in climate. As the ice sheets disappear, krill populations decrease as well. Krill survive by feeding on the algae that grows beneath ice sheets. Without the ice, these organisms have no way to obtain food. Thus, other animals such as Adélie penguins, who feed on krill, also lose their ability to survive. A study done by the University of British Columbia in 2008 found that the population of Antarctic toothfish started to decrease due to the annual two degree increase in temperature. Emperor Penguins and different species of seals and whales are also affected by global warming. Many times people are unaware how many animals live in Antarctica, let alone the whole world. Junior Whitney Hendrix remarks, “I knew there were penguins and whales that live in Antarctica, but I never realized that so many other organisms even existed. I think that all of these species should be protected, no matter how small they are”

50 years ago the temperature of Earth began its journey to climate change when greenhouse emissions first started spewing into the atmosphere. This ecological damage has caused the amount of carbon dioxide in the air to rise to dangerous levels. The only way problems like the Amazon forest fires, deadly hurricanes, or even ice melting will get better is if people realize that humans are the problem. Earth is home to millions of species of plants and animals. It is filled with deserts, rainforests, and rivers all across its surface. Since the beginning of time, this place has been the home of all living things. It’s humans’ jobs to continue this by making the Earth safe and healthy. 

For a video which shows some very real examples of this climatic occurrence, click on the link below: