Panama Coral Reefs

Panama Coral Reefs

Antarctic SeaScience

Antarctic SeaScience

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Climate Change Before Your Eyes

One of the biggest reasons why human-induced climate change is so difficult to understand is that it's often difficult to see the effects of it.

Because climate is the average of weather conditions over long periods of time, most people don't regularly see the effects of a changing climate in their day to day lives.

But a few visits to Palmer Station, Antarctica can surely show you how the Earth's climate is rapidly changing.

Palmer Station is a United States research station on the Western Antarctic Peninsula, positioned on a small spit of land that juts into a beautiful bay, with a massive glacier in it's backyard.

Palmer Station
Whether you ask a scientist that has been visiting Palmer Station for decades, or someone who has only been visiting for a few years, they will tell you how much they've seen the glacier retreat.

Due to slightly warming temperatures, each year, as summer approaches and the snow cover melts, so does some of the glacier.

On average, the edge of the glacier behind Palmer Station retreats about 30 feet every year.

Only fifty years ago, the edge of the glacier used to sit directly behind the buildings of Palmer Station, with almost no space between the two.  Now, it lies more than 500 meters (1,650 feet) from the far edge of the station.

Scientists at Palmer Station have been marking the edge of the glacier since 1963
using GPS instruments.  This satellite image was taken in 2008.

So much of climate science is conducted at the poles because the more extreme the environment, the more the effects of climate change show.  And the clear evidence shown here on the Western Antarctic Peninsula serves as an indicator of the magnitude of the potential changes that could occur throughout the rest of the world.

As our team leaves Palmer Station, we are appreciative to have been able to see the glacier first-hand, walk on the land that has been covered by ice for millions of years, and hear personal accounts from scientists who have watched the glacier retreat with their own eyes.  The more informed and aware we all are, the better we can make changes to combat the effects of human-induced climate change in the present and future.

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