An iceberg the size of Atlanta broke off a glacier in Antarctica in February, marking the middle of a month of soaring temperatures where the mercury hit 69 degrees for the first time in recorded history. The World Meteorological Association is running double-checks to verify it as a new record, and experts say things are going to become even warmer on the world’s chilliest continent.
The Pine Island Glacier breakage is the latest in a series of calving events, which are incidents in which large chunks of ice snap off a glacier and float into the ocean as icebergs. Since 2012, Pine Island Glacier has lost about 58 billion tons of ice per year. Warming temperatures are redefining all of Antarctica – including the way it’s shaped.
The temperatures are also threatening local animal life, including penguins. Penguin thrive on krill; it’s their primary food source. But krill depends on ice, so if things heat up too much, those penguins will starve and impact the rest of the Antarctic ecosystem, as well.
Just for reference, the mean annual temperature of the interior of the continent is –70.6 degrees F. Its coast is warmer – usually around 14 degrees F in the warmest parts – but a 55-degree difference is a really big deal, particularly in February.
As pieces continue to break away from the Pine Island Glacier and its cousin, the Thwaites Glacier, billions of tons of ice are at risk of falling into the ocean. NASA says that these two glaciers contain enough vulnerable ice between them to raise sea levels by 4 feet (sorry, Florida). Each year since 2016, Antarctica has gotten progressively warmer – as has the rest of the world – which means more ice is melting and breaking off massive glaciers. Methane trapped inside the ice then escapes, which can cause more harm and make the earth even warmer, scientists warn, so even despite our best efforts, it might be too late to turn things around.
What Do You Think?
I’d love to hear what you think about the temperatures in Antarctica and how massive icebergs are breaking off our fast-dwindling glaciers, so please feel free to share your own opinion on my Facebook page or on Twitter.