The melting of Antarctica, during the past year, scientists speculate started with the El Nino event. They see this as a direct contribution to most of the Antarctic ice melt bringing unusually warm water into the Pacific Ocean.
The melting was not dramatic, but it could lead to potential cracks in the inner structures of the massive ice networks that make up a huge part of Antarctica. Though this is not the main cause of warming in the Antarctic, it has had a tremendous effect. El Nino brought about a new weather change; rain. Even though this was not as extreme as it could have been, the build up of rain and slush from frequent ice melts can lead to surface breaking, causing massive waterfalls from the top of ice structures.
As the temperatures in Antarctica soar, plant life and insects become increasingly more regular and a major threat to conservation. Coastal areas, such as the South Pole, have experienced a rise in temperature over the past three decades. During this period, glaciers have moved away from the surface, exposing more land for moss to grow rapidly – providing homes for invading species such as the common house fly. This was seen in the Antarctic Peninsula and reported to be the main region on the continent that was most vulnerable to global warming.
Invading species can come in on ships, surviving in the kitchens and then thriving in the bases on the continent. The scientists and increasing number of tourists, also carry invasive species on their camera bags. Usually, in these cases, people do not clean their camera bags often, or at all, and after being set on the dirt of other continents, the seeds or bugs will get caught in the fabric and shaken loose later. This makes it difficult to avoid contamination.
Now, some scientists have resorted to using a vacuum cleaner on the clothing and bags of any volunteers, tourists, workers, and scientists that travel to Antarctica, insuring that they remove any stray seeds from other continents. In doing so, scientists often find more than 2,800 seeds on average, with about 9.5 seeds per tourist and even more per scientist. Unfortunately, an alien plant known as Poa annua, which is common in the United States and treated as a weed, took root in the Antarctic Peninsula. Scientists have also identified the peninsula as a vulnerable area in Antarctica to biological invaders.
Written by Brielle R. Buford
Edited by C. Milne and J. Smith
CNN International: A huge part of Antarctica is melting and scientists say that’s bad news. Live Science: Little Green ‘Aliens’ Invading Antarctica
PRI: Antarctica is getting greener
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Tim Ellis’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License