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Warm water threatening penguins

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Penguins in Antartica

Penguins in Antartica

Image from Pixabay CC0

Image from Pixabay CC0

Penguins in Antartica

Bella Sardelis, Reporter

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An Australian team is uncovering new insights into how new streams of warm water are entering Antarctica, melting ice and endangering penguins.

According to the Australian Academy of Science, climate change is the pattern of the weather and it relates to changes in oceans, land surfaces and ice sheets, occurring over time scales of decades or longer.

Researchers from Discovering Antarctica, have identified that over the years Antarctica’s temperature has increased by 1 degree Celsius since 1955. Researchers found that Antarctica has experienced air temperatures of 3 degrees, which is five times the average rate of global warming.

So how does climate change impact the ice melting in Antarctica? 

Frank Webb, a researcher at NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory program in California describes how Antarctica’s ice is affected by climate change, by using a memory foam analogy.

“When you lie on a memory foam bed, you sink into it. When you get up, it rebounds slowly. There may be a slight bulge around where you were lying,” he said.

This can be similarly compared to the ice sheet which presses on the Earth’s mantle layer, 50 miles below the surface.

According to Webb, over millennia, the heavy ice pushes the surface layer down into the inner surface, and mantle bulges out elsewhere. When the ice sheet melts, the mantle flows back in the reverse direction, in a process that plays out for millennia after the ice has disappeared.

Researchers from the University of Tasmania conducted a study on Antarctica’s melting ice.

Lead researcher, Alessandro Silvanno found that warm and salty ocean water is entering the cold Antarctic atmosphere, insulating warm water which causes further glacial melting.

“We found that in this way increased glacial melt-water can cause a positive feedback, driving further melt of ice shelves and hence an increase in sea level rise,” Silvano said.

There are a variety of species and wildlife that are affected by climate change in Antarctica and experts from, Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition have discovered that climate change poses a big threat on various penguin species, in particular, Emperor Penguins.

Researchers at Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition have found that emperor penguins are highly vulnerable and predicted to suffer when the world’s average temperature increase by two degrees Celsius.

Another reason researchers have discovered behind Antarctica’s South Emperor penguins decline in numbers is due to their lack of food sources. Discovering Antarctica mentions on their site that there has been a decline of krill in Antarctica which is an important food web for not only penguins but also seals and whales.

According to statistics from Discovering Antarctica the number of krill in Antarctica since the 1970s have declined by 80%. The cause of low krill numbers is the decline of sea ice which is their main source of food.

In the 2017 Australian Antarctic Division Government media release, researcher Dr Terauds said ice-free areas in Antarctica will only grow over the years.

“We predict that melt across the Antarctic continent will lead to the emergence of up to 17, 267km, close to 25% of new ice-free areas by the end of the century,” he said.

Ms Lee who was also involved in the Australian Antarctic Division study said that it is important to be aware of the melted ice areas.

“Understanding the effect of expanding ice- free areas is essential if we are to fully understand the implications of climate change in Antarctica,” Lee said.

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Warm water threatening penguins