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Depleting life in Antarctica and climate change that can lead to global crisis. Know all details

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Antarctica popularly known as the mystery continent at the bottom of the world, is the highest, dries, coldest and Windiest continent on earth. It is also the largest single mass of ice on the planet Earth with about 5.5 million square miles in size making it the fifth largest continent located around the south pole.

It is the world's highest continent with an average elevation of about 7200 feet above the sea level. The highest temperature of Antarctic is recorded at -128.6°F ( -89.2°C) which is also the world's lowest temperature recorded.

Antarctica's name means "opposite to the Artic" and it has two seasons- summer and winter.

During Summer, Antarctica is on the side of earth tilted towards the sun. In winter, Antarctica is on the side of Earth tilted away from the sun which is why it is always dark.

Geography and background

The continent was once part of a larger land mass called Gondwana that settled over the south pole and spilt from Australia and South America long before humans evolved. There haven't been any land bridges to Antarctica for around 35 million years, it has been an isolated island for all this time.

Antarctica is governed by about 30 countries, all of which are parties of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty System. According to the terms of the treaty, military activity, mining, nuclear explosions, and nuclear waste disposal are all prohibited in Antarctica.

Tourism, fishing and research are the main human activities in and around Antarctica. During the summer months, about 5,000 people reside at research stations, a figure that drops to around 1,000 in the winter. Despite this the human activity has a significant impact on the continent through the pollution, ozone depletion and climate change.

Life on Antarctica

The people who travel to or live in Antarctica fall into two main groups, those who live and work on scientific research station or bases and tourists. The only "settlements" with longer term residents are scientific bases.

Antarctica scientific bases are bound by the Antarctic Treaty and the Madrid Protocol which designates Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science. All the activities in Antarctica are subject to environment assessment and station staff are responsible for ensuring that protection of the Antarctic environment is always prioritized.

India has three main operational research stations at the south pole, Maitri, Bharti and Dakshin Gangotri, which was the first station built before 1986 and now is operating as a base transit camp mainly for supplying goods.

There are 50 people in the summer and 15-20 in the winter usually. There are around 66 scientific bases in Antarctica, of which about 37 are occupied year around the remaining are open during the summer and closed down for winter. Scientists in the field live in tents and explore the surroundings by food, quad bike or skidoo depending on the territory.

They live in a basecamp where they cook on Primus stoves, eat dehydrated food and plan the next days working. Scientists need to melt ice for drinking water and to cook their dehydrated food.

Apart from the scientific research bases, Antarctica is also big on tourism with over 56,000 visitors per year, some 10,000 of whom will cruise or fly within setting foot on land. Currently most of the tourism is in 2% of the Antarctic and is spread over just five months of the year.

The international Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) was created in 1991 to represent operators offering Antarctic tours.

Working alongside the Antarctic Treaty, IAATO promotes safe, respectful travel in the region, with strictly enforced codes of conduct to avoid causing any damage to the environment.

Species found in Antarctica

Antarctica is famous for the most abundant and the best-known animals from the south continent like the Penguins, whales, seals, Krill, Skua albatross and other seabirds along with a range of invertebrates.

As the animal life is mainly dependent on the sea and are mainly warm blooded, they tend to be pretty large as a survival technique against the extreme and relentless cold. Antarctica can support such an abundance of large animals as a result of the productivity of the southern polar sea.

In Antarctica, penguin for the most part live on island and far off mainland districts with not many land hunters as they cannot fly. They are adjusted to living adrift, and a few animal varieties can invest a long time at an energy adrift.

One of the primary predators of Antarctica are the Leopard deal which is named for its spotted fur coat. They have powerful jaws and long teeth to hunt fish, squid, penguins and other deals.

Antarctica is also popular for the presence of the Killer whale most commonly called as Orca, they have the ability to use echolocation and can be found in all of the world's oceans in a variety of marine environments from Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas.

Temperature variation in Antarctica

The Antarctic Peninsula, the part of Antarctica far from the South Pole, has been warming rapidly with about five times faster than the global average. Since 1950, the Antarctic Peninsula has warmed almost 3°C (5.4°F). That's more warming than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere. Overall warmer temperatures along the peninsula are increasing ice melt and have caused several ice shelves to break apart. Antarctica's average annual temperature ranges from about −10°C on the coast to −60°C at the highest parts of the interior. Near the coast, the temperature can exceed +10°C in summer and fall to below −40°C in winter. Over the elevated inland, it can rise to about −30°C in summer but fall below −80°C in winter.

Impact of Climate change in Antarctica

Although Antarctica is thousands of miles away from most of the continents, there has been a significant impact on the climate of Antarctica all thanks to the rapid increase in the global warming. It has resulted in a rapid mass loss of the Antarctica ice sheet.

Water that is currently stored in ice on land contribute to the sea level rise. The upper ocean temperature to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula have increased over 1°C since 1955.

The Antarctic circumpolar current is warming more rapidly than the global ocean as a whole.

The warming of the Antarctic Peninsula is also causing changed to the physical and living environment of Antarctica and melting perennial snow and ice covers has resulted in increased colonization by plants. The water in the Southern Ocean is also warming, this not only speeds the melting of ice shelves, but also has an impact on the sensitive marine ecosystem of the Southern Ocean.

The rising temperatures and associated ice and permafrost melting seen in Antarctica needs global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We need to increase climate change resilience through the protection of ecosystems. Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPA) and Antarctic Specially Managed Areas (ASMA) are areas of Antarctica that are designated by the Antarctic Treaty for special protection of the flora and fauna. But this is not it, continuous efforts and global understanding of every country is must for making the continent survive and not becoming danger to human lives. If the island melt it will increase sea level and the islands around the globe will submerge underneath making human life impossible ultimately leading to crisis.

69% of wildlife has already disappeared due to humans. Check its impact on biodiversity and lives.

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