Antarctica is turning green due to rising temperatures

Gwen Vasquez
May 20, 2017

"Antarctica is not going to become entirely green, but it will become more green than it now is", said Matt Amesbury, co-author of the research from the University of Exeter.

"It's a clear sign that the biological response to climate warming is pervasive around the globe", he said. "Temperature change also drives other things, so earlier spring melt, for example, is one, longer growing season is another - all of those things will have more local effects on each individual site", said Amesbury.

A group of scientists analyzed the historical data of the last 150 years and had identified specific points of time when the biological activity got increased.

Less than 1 percent of present-day Antarctica features plant life.

Increases in ice-free land also limit how much sunlight is reflected back into space, which results in more solar radiation being absorbed by the surrounding waters.

"Assuming a flat Antarctica allows for more transport of warm air from lower attitudes", he said.

"The sensitivity of moss growth to past temperature rises suggests that ecosystems will alter rapidly under future warming, leading to major changes in the biology and landscape of this iconic region", he said.

'In short, we could see Antarctic greening to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic. In the Arctic, there's now so much plant growth that some scientists are hoping it will at least partially offset the loss of carbon from thawing permafrost beneath those plants. "Today that photo would show extensive patches of green". "It was during the greenhouse climates of the Cretaceous and Eocene, when the continent was ice free".

The receding snow line is making Arctic green Zee News
The receding snow line is making Arctic green Zee News

Amesbury said that made them "a record of changes over time".

The Antarctic is turning green with rising temperatures having a "dramatic effect" on the growth of moss in the frozen continent, scientists have discovered.

The next step for researchers is to look back even further in history to see how climate change affected the region before humans made an impact. In Antarctica, the observed change has been less dramatic.

"Although there was variability within our data, the consistency of what we found across different sites was striking", said Dan Charman, another author from Exeter. The findings appear in Current Biology on May 18.

Vegetation occurs in the Antarctic because of global warming.

"What that result suggests to us is in the future if this warming continues there will be what we've called a greening of the Antarctic Peninsula", Amesbury said.

High temperatures continue to shape life on both poles. That is the second lowest April sea ice extent since record-keeping began in 1979. That's tied for the lowest ever recorded, with April 2016.

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