Antarctica Current Affairs

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Climate Change: Antarctica is Turning Green

According to a new study conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Exeter in the UK, plant life on Antarctica is growing rapidly due to climate change. The scientists have observed  a sharp increase in biological activity in Antarctica in the last 50 years. For ascertaining the growth, the scientists conducted tests at five cores from three sites and has observed the occurrence of major biological changes across the Antarctic Peninsula. The scientists made use of 150 years’ worth of data to arrive at the conclusion. The study has been published in the journal Current Biology.

According to the scientists, Antarctica will be much greener in the future and the continent’s plants and soils will change substantially even with only modest further warming. The continuous retreat of glaciers will make Antarctica much greener in the future. As per the study, the growth of moss in the continent is a signifier that the region is already undergoing change. At present, the plant life exists only in 0.3% of Antarctica. With increase in land cover occurs decrease in snow and ice cover. The thinner ice cover permits the penetration of sunlight into the previously dark areas allowing the planktons to grow. This would bring ecosystem shift to Antarctica similar to what has happened in Arctic.

Background

In March 2017, the US and European scientists had observed that the extent of sea ice at both poles has hit new record lows in this year’s season. The disappearing sea ice comes as the Earth marks three consecutive years of record-breaking heat and temperature rise, raising fresh concerns about the accelerating pace of global warming.  Also, for the past two years, Antarctica saw record high sea ice extents and decades of moderate sea ice growth.

Recently, the researchers have also found that the Southern Antarctic Peninsula showed no signs of change up to 2009. But after 2009, multiple glaciers along a vast coastal expanse suddenly started to shed ice into the ocean. These glaciers measure around 750 km in length and are shrinking nearly at a constant rate of 60 cubic km and adding about 55 trillion litres of water each year. With this level of shrinking, the region has become the second largest contributor to sea level rise in Antarctica causing small changes in the gravity field of the Earth.

Bharti is the name of third Research station commissioned by India at Antarctica. It will be the third and second active research station along with Maitri (active) and Dakshin Gangotri(abandoned, but used as supply base) for the nation.

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4 ISRO teams join 36th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has joined the 36th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (36-ISEA) organised by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR).

It has send four teams-one team each from Space Applications Centre (SAC), National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) and and Space Physics Laboratory(SPL). 

Key Facts
  • The main objective of this expedition is to install stakes on ice for Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) measurements around two Indian bases Bharati and Maitri in Antartica.
  • It will validate glacier surface velocity derived from satellite data to estimate thickness of snow over land and sea ice using Ground Penetrating Radars (GPR’s). It will also verify conditions of snow over sea and land ice.
  • ISRO teams will also study of snow melt and freeze dynamics in Antarctica using space-based and ground-based observations.
  • It will also study measurements of Atmospheric Black Carbon (BC), greenhouse gases and solar radiation fluxes at Antarctica on a long-term basis.

About Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (ISEA)

  • ISEA is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional program conducted every year by the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences. It was started in 1981.
  • It has gained global acceptance after India signed Antarctic Treaty. Subsequently, India had constructed Dakshin Gangotri Antarctic research base in 1983. It was superseded by the Maitri base from 1990,
  • India’s newest base in Antarctica, Bharati, was commissioned in 2015. It is constructed out of 134 shipping containers.

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Antarctic ice loss altering earth’s gravity: Study

A new scientific study has found that a sudden and massive ice loss in a previously stable region of Antarctica is causing small changes in the gravitational field of the Earth.

This study was led by Dr Bert Wouters, a Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Bristol, England and was recently published in Science Journal.

Key highlights of Study

  • The changes were observed using the CryoSat-2 satellite, a mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) dedicated to remote-sensing of ice.
  • Researchers have found that the ice surface of some of the glaciers is currently going down by as much as 4 m each year.
  • They also have found out that Southern Antarctic Peninsula showed no signs of change up to 2009. But after 2009, multiple glaciers along a vast coastal expanse suddenly started to shed ice into the ocean.
  • These glaciers measure around 750 km in length and are shrinking nearly at a constant rate of 60 cubic km and adding about 55 trillion litres of water each year.
  • With level of shrinking, this region now has become the second largest contributor to sea level rise in Antarctica and causing small changes in the gravity field of the Earth.

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