Shop Windows to the Universe

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.

   Image courtesy of Ken Mankoff, EdGCM

From: Ken Mankoff
McMurdo Station, Antarctica, October 28, 2007

What if there were no Antarctica?

I'm in Antarctica right now, and wondering what this place might look like in a hundred or more years. What would Earth be like if there were no Antarctica? Human induced climate change has the potential to melt the ice sheets on Antarctica and Greenland. If this happens over the next few hundred years, it would have huge changes for life on Earth. I've used a climate model called EdGCM to simulate what the planet might be like if Antarctica were entirely removed from the planet. There are mountains under the ice that were also removed in this simulation, and we did not include sea level rise that would presumably happen if all the ice were melted. There was no global warming in this scenario. We took a 'regular' static world without CO2 increase and simulated what would happen if Antarctica disappeared. It turns out that not only would a hotter planet melt the ice, but a removal of the ice will create a hotter planet! We see a huge increase in air and ocean temperatures all over the planet by removing Antarctica. This implies there is a positive feedback loop in the system, and 'positive' is not a good thing in this situation. And a warmer world means much less ice too!

The moral of this postcard is to do what we can now to stop human induced climate change. If you would like to learn more about this simulation and see an in-depth write-up of the results, that will be appearing shortly on the EdGCM website.

Annual snow and ice cover without Antarctica

Postcards from the Field: ANDRILL

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Antarctica

Antarctica is unique. It is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth. The land is barren and mostly covered with a thick sheet of ice. Antarctica is almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle...more

Glaciers and Ice Sheets

For a glacier to develop, the amount of snow that falls must be more than the amount of snow that melts each year. This means that glaciers are only found in places where a large amount of snow falls each...more

Effects of Climate Change Today

The world's surface air temperature increased an average of 0.6 Celsius (1.1F) during the last century according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This may not sound like very...more

Carbon Dioxide - CO2

Carbon dioxide is a colorless and non-flammable gas at normal temperature and pressure. Although much less abundant than nitrogen and oxygen in Earth's atmosphere, carbon dioxide is an important constituent...more

Ice-Albedo Feedback: How Melting Ice Causes More Ice to Melt

Arctic sea ice is covered with snow all winter. Bright white, the snow-covered ice has a high albedo so it absorbs very little of the solar energy that gets to it. And during the Arctic winter, very little...more

Joanna Hubbard

This is my 10th year with the Anchorage School District as a science teacher, currently working with K-12 teachers around the district rather than in a classroom. My most recent classroom time was as a...more

Robin Frisch-Gleason

Robin Frisch-Gleason brings a background in both geology and teaching to the ANDRILL Project. Robin's first career was geology. She received her B.A. in Geology from Oberlin College in 1982, and her M.S....more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF