Antarctica is Melting

Apparently, yesterday was the warmest February day in the Northern hemisphere since records began over 100 years ago. The worst part is that this comes as no surprise in the slightest to anyone who’s been paying attention.

The British Antarctic Survey recently released an aerial video of a crack in the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. The crack is currently 175 km long and nearly 500 m wide, and will ultimately cause an iceberg the size of a small country to break off and float away into the sea.

Meanwhile, politicians bicker, continue to deny climate change is even happening, and forcibly run oil pipes through lands owned by Native Americans. In short, we’re all in trouble.

The mechanism here is incredibly simple, and can be explained with these three gifs, created by meteorologist Ed Hawkins. Firstly, this one.


This shows increasing atmospheric CO₂ concentration in parts per million (ppm). As is abundantly clear, since the 1960s, the amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere has increased substantially.

CO₂ is a strong greenhouse gas and is responsible for quite a lot of the warmth absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere. If you want an example of how good CO₂ is at absorbing heat and warming up a planet, well. Just take a look at Venus.

The result of this steady increase in CO₂ is a similarly steady increase in Earth’s overall temperature.


As you can see from this image, Earth’s average temperature is nearly 1.5°C above where it’s supposed to be. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s worth remembering that a change of 1.5°C can mean the difference between ice and not ice.

It’s important to remember here that this is about the planet as a whole. The effects on weather patterns locally are many and varied, and the effects can be entirely unpredictable. By which I mean, just because it’s a cold day outside where you are does not mean the planet is not warming. In the exact same way that just because you spilled a glass of water on the floor does not mean your entire house is flooding.

As any schoolchild knows, if you warm up ice, it melts. So…


This shows the volume of sea ice in the Arctic, and make no mistake, there is no logical reason why the Antarctic should be any different. As should be painfully apparent, the amount of sea ice has dropped markedly over the past 40 or so years.

The thing is that yes, if things do not change, these graphs will reach their ultimate and frightening conclusions. We will end up living on an overheating little planet, heavy with carbon dioxide, and with no sea ice. When that ice melts, it will ultimately all go into the sea, and the sea will rise.

If this doesn’t sound like the kind of world you want to live in, then you should do something. Campaign. Protest. Call your politicians. Walk somewhere instead of driving. Fit your house with solar panels. Because we need to do something about all of this while we still have that option.

Otherwise, consider investing in a wetsuit. Like whoever wrote this.


About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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