Extreme Temperature Diary- Thursday February 17th, 2022/Main Topic: Why Turning Green in Antarctica Is Not a Good Thing

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: Turning Green in Antarctica Is Not a Good Thing

Dear Diary. As of early 2022 the signs of climate change are appearing across every nook and corner of good old planet Earth. Clearly, climate change is also beginning in earnest across one of the ice boxes of Earth, Antarctica. The science of paleontology indicates that Antarctica was much warmer at times in the distant past, with forests dominating the continent when there was very little ice cover. At one point, some species of dinosaurs roamed this now frozen island continent. Would it be a bad thing if a warming Antarctica reverted to greener times with grasslands and forests returning? You bet!

Climatologists don’t like some early signs occurring in association with Antarctica. For one, sea ice is now at its lowest extent since records have been kept on the Southern Hemisphere cryosphere:

We are also seeing signs that the “doomsday” Thwaites glacier is becoming more unstable. Should it and other glaciers break off from Antarctica, sea level rise would swamp all coastal cities worldwide.

Also, and not too surprisingly, grasses are trying to get a foothold on peripheral areas of the continent:

For details, here is Julia Conley’s report:

Climate Tipping Points: Antarctica is turning green

Published on February 16th, 2022


Authors of a new study published Tuesday warn accelerated growth of Antarctica’s two native plant species reveals that the climate crisis is dramatically changing the continent’s fragile ecosystem in ways that could have major implications for biodiversity.

Deschampsia antarctica, one of only two flowering plants native to antarctica
Deschampsia antarctica (Lomvi2 • CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Julia Conley
Common Dreams

Researchers at two universities in Italy and the British Antarctic Survey found that Antarctic hair grass and Antarctic pearlwort have spread between five and 10 times faster in the past decade than they did in the first five decades scientists were studying them.

The researchers examined the plants on Signy Island in the South Orkney Islands and found that as summer temperatures have risen in Antarctica since 2009 and 2018, hair grass has grown five times faster than it did between 1960 and 2009.

Pearlwort has grown 10 times faster than it did when researchers first studied it in that earlier period.

Since 2009, summer warming in Antarctica has risen each year by 0.03° to nearly 0.05° Fahrenheit, and the authors of the study, published Monday in Current Biology, said the warmer summers were the main driver of the accelerated vegetation growth.

The progressively smaller population of fur seals—which generally trample the plants and keep them from spreading far—was seen as a secondary cause. According to a study published in December by scientists at the University of Barcelona, fur seals are becoming less prominent also due to the climate crisis, which is cutting down on the supply of krill.

“I was expecting an increase of these plants but not of this magnitude,” said Prof. Nicoletta Cannone of the University of Insubria in Como, Italy, who led the research published Monday. “We are receiving multiple evidences that a major change is occurring in Antarctica.”

The spread of hair grass and pearlwort on the continent could cause changes in soil acidity, the researchers noted, which can have “consequences on all components of terrestrial ecosystems” according to Cannone.

The accelerated growth of the plants suggests “we may be reaching a climate tipping point,” said New Scientist magazine.

The new research follows numerous other recent events and studies showing the effects of the climate crisis on Antarctica. In December, scientists found that a crucial ice shelf keeping the Thwaites glacier—often called the “Doomsday Glacier”—from shattering is eroding from below. Research published last May showed Antarctica has warmed three times faster than the rest of the world over the past three decades.

Along with causing accelerated growth of the continent’s only native flora, warmer summers in Antarctica could trigger the growth of non-native species like the Poa annua, which began growing on Signy Island in 2018.

“These may outcompete native species and trigger irreversible biodiversity loss and changes to these fragile and unique ecosystems,” the study reads.

Mosses, lichens, vascular plants, and invertebrates may already have migrated to Antarctica, facilitated by human activity such as tourism, the researchers said.

“The ingression of alien species can induce a dramatic loss of the native biodiversity of Antarctica which required millions of years of evolution and survival,” Cannone told The Guardian.

(Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.)

Here are some “ET” reports from Thursday:

Here is more climate and weather news from Thursday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *