Climate Change and Antarctica – Changing Earth’s Gravity
Monday, 6 October 2014
Greetings from Nairobi.
The Antarctic ice sheet is one of the two polar ice caps on earth. It covers about 98% of the Antarctic continent and is the largest single mass of ice on earth. However, as a result of climate change and the polar regions get warmer, Antarctica’s ancient ice is beginning to melt with far reaching consequences.
Antarctica is losing so much ice that it is actually changing earth’s gravity. This new finding is based on measurements made by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite, which was developed to map the Earth’s gravitation field, and data from the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission, a collaboration between the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the German Aerospace Center which aims to provide accurate mapping of variations in the gravity field of the earth.
According to ESA, changes in the earth’s mass cause the gravity to fluctuate in small ways but with the large scale melting of the ice sheets in West Antarctica between 2009 and 2012, the loss was large enough to result in changes in the earth gravitational field in that part of the world. Based on data for three glaciers, Antarctica lost more than 180 billion metric tons of ice per year during the mentioned three-year period. Pine Island Glacier lost 67 billion metric tons of ice, Thwaites Glacier lost 67 billion metric tons and Getz Ice Shelf lost55 billion metric tons, respectively, each year.
By comparison, the world population put together weigh approximately 287 million metric tons.
Beyond the impact on earth’s gravity, the immediate result of the melting Antarctic (and Arctic) ice sheets, especially if this becomes an ongoing trend, would be a rise in sea levels. Even a modest rise in sea levels will cause flooding in low-lying coastal areas, while significant melting of the ice sheets could result in the complete disappearance of some coastal areas over time.
There is no shortage of evidence about climate change and the devastating impact which it might have on all of us, regardless of where we live in the world. It is time for action, and we all have a responsibility to change our behaviour and also hold those accountable whose actions and practices are irresponsible and negligent.
The countdown to Antarctica continues…
I’m excited about the race in Antarctica and the challenge of raising R250 000 for a Greenpeace Africa solar energy project, and encourage you to support my efforts and the work of Greenpeace Africa!
Please make a donation and encourage others to do the same.
“Together we can make a difference!”