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MELTING ANTARCTICA and WORLD'S OCEANS AND ECOSYSTEMS



  May 21, 2024

MELTING ANTARCTICA and WORLD'S OCEANS AND ECOSYSTEMS



What Is Happening in Antarctica?

Ice Melt

- Rising Temperatures: Due to global warming, temperatures in Antarctica are rising, causing ice sheets and glaciers to melt at an accelerated rate.

- Weddell and Thwaites Glaciers: The Weddell Sea region and Thwaites Glacier, also known as the "Doomsday Glacier," are experiencing significant ice loss. Thwaites alone contributes about 4% of global sea level rise annually.

How Does Melting Antarctica Affect the World's Oceans?

Sea Level Rise

- Increased Water Volume: As ice melts, it adds more water to the world's oceans, leading to higher sea levels.

- Global Impact: Coastal cities and low-lying areas around the world, including India, are at risk of flooding, affecting millions of people and infrastructure.

Ocean Currents

- Freshwater Dilution: The influx of freshwater from melting ice can disrupt ocean currents, which are driven by the balance of salt and temperature in the water.

- Climate Regulation: Ocean currents play a crucial role in regulating the Earth's climate by distributing heat around the globe. Disruptions can lead to changes in weather patterns and climate systems.

What Are the Implications for Marine Ecosystems?

Habitat Loss

- Ice-Dependent Species: Many species, such as penguins, seals, and krill, depend on the ice for their habitat. Melting ice reduces their living space and can lead to population declines.

- Food Web Disruption: Krill, which rely on algae that grow under sea ice, are a critical food source for many marine animals. Their decline can impact the entire food web.

Ocean Temperature

- Warming Waters: As more ice melts, the surrounding ocean water can warm, affecting marine life that is sensitive to temperature changes.

- Coral Reefs: Warmer waters can cause coral bleaching, where corals expel the algae living in their tissues, leading to coral death and the loss of biodiversity.

Ocean Acidification

- Carbon Absorption: The oceans absorb a significant amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. As CO2 levels rise, the ocean becomes more acidic.

- Marine Life Impact: Acidic waters can harm marine organisms, particularly those with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons, such as shellfish and coral.

Impact on India

Coastal Flooding

- Sea Level Rise: India's long coastline is highly vulnerable to rising sea levels, which can lead to increased coastal flooding and erosion. Major cities like Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata are at significant risk.

- Displacement: Rising sea levels can displace millions of people living in coastal regions, leading to economic and social challenges.

Agriculture

- Saltwater Intrusion: Sea level rise can cause saltwater to intrude into freshwater sources, affecting agriculture in coastal regions. This can reduce crop yields and impact food security.

- Climate Patterns: Changes in ocean currents can affect the monsoon patterns, which are critical for Indian agriculture.

Fisheries

- Marine Ecosystems: The warming of ocean waters and acidification can impact fish populations, which are vital for India's fishing industry. Reduced fish stocks can affect livelihoods and food supply.

- Coral Reefs: India's coral reefs, such as those in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, are at risk from warming waters and acidification, leading to biodiversity loss.

Broader Environmental Impacts

Climate Feedback Loops

- Albedo Effect: Ice reflects sunlight, helping to keep the Earth cool. As ice melts, darker ocean water absorbs more heat, accelerating global warming.

- Permafrost Melting: Melting ice can expose permafrost, which releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, further exacerbating climate change.

Biodiversity Loss

- Species Extinction: The loss of ice habitats and changing ocean conditions can lead to the extinction of species that cannot adapt quickly enough.

- Ecosystem Collapse: The interconnected nature of ecosystems means that the loss of one species can have cascading effects, potentially leading to ecosystem collapse.

Human Impact

- Fishing Industry: Changes in marine ecosystems can affect fish populations, impacting the fishing industry and communities that rely on it.

- Health Risks: Flooding and changes in water quality can lead to health risks, including waterborne diseases and loss of clean drinking water.

Conclusion

The melting of Antarctica, including critical regions like the Weddell Sea and Thwaites Glacier, has far-reaching consequences for the world's oceans and ecosystems. For India, the impacts are significant, including coastal flooding, agricultural challenges, and threats to marine biodiversity. Addressing climate change and mitigating its effects are crucial to protecting our planet's future.



SRIRAM’s


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