A Pandora's Box of Problems Waiting to Open Essay

1253 Words 6 Pages
What comes to mind when you think of Antarctica? Far away, penguins, maybe a few scientists, and……ice. Antarctica is a continent located towards the Southern Pole and covered, completely, in ice. The ice has come and gone throughout history as the result of massive changes in climate and now, something is happening to it. The ice is depleting, though not as fast as the Arctic Ocean, and not quite the way you would think. And if we accept that it is depleting, what happens as the climate continues to change? What happens to our coastal cities when the sea levels rise? What happens to weather patterns in the Southern Oceans? Before we can answer those questions, we need to understand what’s going on in Antarctica right now.

Ice is
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The Southern Ocean has been warming at around 0.17 C per decade (LiveScience Staff, 2010). So is it increasing, kind of, but it’s much more complicated than that.

Conveyor Belt Theory
There’s another reason why Antarctica is not melting at anywhere near the rate of the Arctic Ocean, and it’s called the Ocean Conveyor Belt. This theory has been found to have some problems, due to over simplification of the processes, which is what we’re about to do. Basically, there is a very complex system called the Meridional Overturning Current, which the Gulf Stream is a part of, which picks up heat from the Southern ocean and brings it up to the Northern Atlantic. As it goes North, it cools and sinks through a process known as convection and then goes back down to the Southern Ocean. This helps Antarctica stay colder. Although, it may soon become more of a problem as the MOC may begin to be slowing, possible due to runoff from Siberian permafrost or the Greenland ice sheet due to global warming. This problem has not started to occur yet although is predicted to occur, due to hypotheses that rapid cooling 12,000 years ago came about as a result of melting glaciers altering ocean’s salinity and slowing down the MOC (Dunbar, 2010). This disruption could warm the Southern Oceans and lead to much bigger problems with Antarctica’s ice, although, thankfully, not at the moment.


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