Antarctica is the highest, windiest, driest, coldest, iciest, emptiest, cleanest, darkest and quietest continent.
Antarctica, as we all know, is the Earth's southernmost continent that contains the South Pole. Due to its location and the primary tilt of the Earth, it receives very little heat from the Sun. This renders it to be the most coldest place on our planet.
Basically, Antarctica is divided into two distinct divisions―East Antarctica and West Antarctica, separated by the Transantarctic mountains. The presence of the ice cover and polar location modulates the exchange of heat, moisture, and gases between the surrounding ocean and the atmosphere at large. This, in turn, is pivotal while considering climate change around the world.
With global warming coming into the picture, the ice cap covering Antarctica is melting. This is unduly causing rapid changes in the global climate.
The polar location and additional presence of high ice shelves make the continent a very powerful heat sink. As explained above, the ice cover regulates exchange of heat, moisture, and gases between the surrounding atmosphere and the ocean, which eventually affects the whole Earth.
So to say, the Antarctic region is an important regulator of global climate. To explain this unending cycle in the most simplest terms, we can say that global warming is not just causing the ice in the Antarctic to melt, but it is also heating up other parts of our planet as well.
Antarctic Ice Melt
Observations from the past 50 years have shown that the western coast of the Peninsula has been warming up rapidly. While the east coast shows no major change in temperature, the temperatures along the west coast have significantly increased by 3 degrees. This means that the western coast is apparently losing more ice as compared to the eastern coast.
Many glaciers have retreated, while some ice shelves along the fringes of the Peninsula have completely collapsed in the past. Melting ice caps means the oceans surrounding Antarctica are swelling up, and this water eventually contributes to the rise in the sea level of the global sea.
Effect of the Ocean Currents
The climate of a region is determined by its latitude, terrain altitude, and the presence of nearby water bodies and currents.
Ocean currents, as we know, can flow great distances, thus, playing a dominant part in determining the climate of regions surrounding the water bodies. In this part of the world, when the sea ice begins to form, it rejects the brine, which eventually increases the density of the upper ocean water. This water sinks and comes to be known as deep ocean current. These currents carry heat, which affect the climate around the globe.
Apparently, the atmospheric pressure has dropped over the continent and risen in the middle latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere. This is resulting in the strengthening of the westerly winds blowing over the Southern Ocean around the continent. This, in turn, has an impact on the upwelling, mixing, and movement of ocean currents.
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the distribution of weather patterns. These changes occur primarily due to factors, like ocean currents, solar radiation, plate tectonics, and human alterations. Natural causes aside, humans creating an imbalance in the natural surrounding is a major cause of concern for climate change.
Deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, and other human activities of man have resulted in the production of greenhouse gases which are emitted into the Earth's atmosphere. Greenhouse gases and the consequent depletion of the ozone layer have been major contributors to global warming. Warmer climatic conditions means warmer oceans. Warmer oceans spell trouble for continental ice. This means that, climate change around the world will eventually affect Antarctica, which will give rise to warmer ocean currents. This, in turn, will cause the Earth's existing equilibrium to be shattered, thus, hampering the climatic conditions around the world.
These changes are obviously significant for the frozen continent because they threaten major disruptions to the region's delicate ecological balance. They are the first signs of the global changes to come.