Friday, May 19, 2017

Climate Change Is Turning Antarctica Green

A new study has found a steady growth of moss in Antarctica over the last 50 years
By Scott Waldman, ClimateWire on May 19, 2017

Plant life on both poles is growing rapidly as the planet warms.

A new study has found a steady growth of moss in Antarctica over the last 50 years as temperatures increased as a result of climate change. The study, published yesterday in the journal Current Biology, shows that Antarctica will be much greener in the future, said lead author Matt Amesbury, a researcher at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

The continued retreat of glaciers will make the Antarctic Peninsula, which has been warming at a faster rate than the rest of the continent, a much greener place in the future, Amesbury said.

“It’s a clear sign that the biological response to climate warming is pervasive around the globe,” he said. “The Antarctic Peninsula is often thought of as a very remote and possibly even untouched region, but this clearly shows that the effects of climate change are felt here.”

Amesbury and his fellow researchers used cores of the moss bank to arrive at their conclusion. They looked at 150 years’ worth of data and found clear “changepoints” in the last 50 years that showed the increase of moss cover. Amesbury described the moss growth as a powerful signifier that the region is already undergoing change.


That echoes research published earlier this year that also shows an increase of plant growth in the Arctic. Scientists once thought tiny marine plants known as phytoplankton could not thrive under sea ice in the frigid Arctic ocean. But thinning ice has allowed them to thrive to such an extent that green patches of ice have been observed. The thinner ice lets sunshine in to previously dark areas, which allows the plankton to grow, and has the potential to dramatically change the ecosystem as animals migrate to the area earlier in pursuit of food.


The globe experienced its second warmest April in recorded history, second only to last year, and sea ice cover in both the Arctic and Antarctic is near record lows, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced yesterday. Antarctic sea ice cover was 18.2 percent, or 520,000 square miles, below the 1981-2010 average, NOAA also said yesterday. That is the second lowest April sea ice extent since record-keeping began in 1979. In the Arctic, sea ice cover was down 6.9 percent, or 394,000 square miles. That’s tied for the lowest ever recorded, with April 2016.

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