Heather Ross180201BIOE 375Homework IThe Antarctic ice sheet covers an area roughly the size of the United States and Mexico combined and can provide researchers with a plethora of information regarding climate science and climate change (Newbern, 2015). Data on the Antarctic ice sheet show that it is gaining ice overall, which has led people to believe that climate cannot be warming or else this wouldn’t be possible (Newbern, 2015). Although Antarctica is gaining more ice than it is losing overall, this phenomenon does not debunk the reality that the climate is changing. The addition of ice on the Antarctic ice sheet is due to higher precipitation in the form of snow.
Higher amounts of precipitation are strongly correlated with warming climates because warmer air can hold more moisture than cooler air, therefore increasing overall global precipitation (Newbern, 2015). Ice is accumulating via snow in the Eastern Antarctic, yet ice is being lost via melting in the Western Antarctic (Newbern, 2015). These two phenomena often exist together in nature and are most certainly not exclusive of one another. This drastic difference in the amount of ice accumulation and the amount of ice melt between the two regions of Antarctica is due to the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica (Newman, 2006). Although substances that exhaust the ozone layer are found all throughout the stratosphere due to circulating atmospheric air flows, the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica exists because of the specific atmospheric conditions that occur there that are unlike anywhere else in the world (NOAA, 2010). The extremely cold temperatures of Antarctica allow the formation of polar stratospheric clouds which react with molecules in the air, such as those containing chlorine and bromine (Newman, 2006). Ultimately the hole in the ozone layer is created from these chemical reactions (Newman, 2006). This hole created in the ozone layer, in turn, alters the wind stream over Antarctica, generating a cooling effect on only the Eastern portion of the continent (Newbern, 2015).
The hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic is actually repairing itself and becoming smaller due to the decrease in the global use of ozone-depleting agents, such as many aerosols (Newman, 2006). The warmer temperatures in the Antarctic are also contributing to the reduction in the size of the ozone hole, as colder air promotes the degradation of the ozone layer while warmer temperatures increase the ozone in the ozone layer (Newman, 2006). This decrease in the size of the ozone hole will ultimately create warmer temperatures in Antarctica as the cooling effect that it generates vanishes with it, and the accumulation of ice to the Antarctic ice sheet will also decline greatly (Newman, 2006). Overall, the amount of melting of the Antarctic ice sheet will be far greater than the amount of ice being added to the ice sheet in the form of snow precipitation. While warmer temperatures in the Antarctic can be seen as beneficial to the recovery of the ozone hole, its overall effects on the ecosystem will continue to be life changing for those that live there.
As more ice melts and more ocean water surrounding the ice sheet is exposed to incoming solar radiation, more heat will be absorbed by the ocean. This will ultimately cause the ice sheet to continue to melt and decrease in overall size, even while some snow is being added to it. Works CitedNewman, Paul A., et al. “When will the Antarctic ozone hole recover?” Geophysical Research Letters, AGU Publications, 30 June 2006, onlinelibrary.
Newbern, Elizabeth. “Antarctica Is Gaining Ice, So Why Is the Earth Still Warming?” LiveScience, Live Science, 19 Nov. 2015, www.livescience.com/52831-antarctica-gains-ice-but-still-warming.
html.NOAA. “Why has an “ozone hole” appeared over Antarctica when ozone-Depleting substances are present throughout the stratosphere? .” Noaa.gov, NOAA, 2010, www.esrl.noaa.gov/csd/assessments/ozone/2010/twentyquestions/Q10.pdf.