Glaciers located at the North and South Poles (Arctic and Antarctic) are not only the habitat of thousands of polar species, but they also play very important roles on our planet. Currently as a consequence of global overheating, these glaciers are suffering a clear retreat, with its obvious consequences for life and the balance of the Earth. In this AgroCorrn article we review the consequences of the thaw at the poles and what is the current situation at the poles, to help raise awareness of the global problem that this situation poses.
The importance of the poles on planet Earth
Despite their remoteness, the truth is that the polar caps are a very important component of life and climate on our planet, Earth.
One of its most important functions is that the ice caps at the poles provide large amounts of water and regulate ocean circulation, thanks to differences in temperature and salinity , thus distributing a large amount of heat throughout the planet and controlling, therefore, the climate in all regions of the planet. In addition, these currents also control the carbon cycle, providing nutrients and optimal conditions for the development of numerous oceanic fauna and phytoplankton. Deep ocean sediments offer testimony to ocean circulation in the past.
Another of its functions is to absorb large amounts of the CO2 that humans themselves emit in our daily activities, thus largely cushioning climate change and its terrible consequences, which is still progressing faster than expected naturally. .
Current situation of the poles
The current thaw situation at the Arctic or North Pole is somewhat more serious than in Antarctica. This is because due to its geographical location, it is more surrounded by continents and, therefore, more influenced by changes in air temperature, while Antarctica, being surrounded by ocean, is more influenced by the effects of the wind. and temperatures in the ocean and nearby seas and not so much because of the air temperature.
It is estimated that in the Arctic, sea ice has been reduced by up to 40% in the period between 1979 and 2014. In addition, there are more and more ponds that form in summer and spring and absorb color, increasing thaw in the Arctic.
In Antarctica , or in the geographical area of the South Pole, it has been observed that its largest glacial, the Totten glacier (130 km long and 30 km wide) has been melting in recent years due to the increase in temperature of seas and oceans. Another of the great glaciers of this pole, the Smith, has been destroyed at a rate of 2 km a year, losing about 35 km of surface. It is estimated that in the next few years, Antarctica and Greenland will be the ones that most drive sea level rise .
Consequences of the melting of the poles
We can list the main consequences of the thaw at the poles in the following:
On the one hand, the release of large carbon reserves such as methane (a greenhouse gas more powerful than CO2) stored in permafrost, or layer of soil that is naturally permanently frozen, is influencing climate change. Ozone concentrations in Antarctica have been seen to influence winds and storms in the Southern Ocean. In addition, these storms constitute the main source of heat and humidity in the polar regions.
In terms of fauna and flora, the level of warming has also changed vegetation , also affecting grazing animals and those that hunt for their subsistence. Studies have also found that in the Southern Ocean there is a greater richness and complexity of life forms because species migrate towards the poles in response to warming and show interesting evolutionary trends, such as octopuses that come from ancestral species. So it can be assured that the fauna of these areas has also changed .
Another process that is taking place as a consequence of warming is the migration of infectious diseases from the tropics to the polar regions. As an example, during the summer of 2014, a hundred infections with bacteria of the genus Vibrio (one species causes cholera) were observed near the coasts of Sweden and Finland. Some pathogens are also typical of the past, emerging as a consequence of the thawing and melting of permafrost.
The ecological impact of thawing influences the entire ecosystem of the Earth, from the microscopic plankton, which must adapt to the increase in temperature and higher acidity of the water in the oceans and seas, to the migration of whales and other species.
A paradox is that climate change favors the melting of the poles and this in turn feeds back climate change.
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