Antarctica: A huge ice shelf collapses



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Antarctica: A huge ice shelf collapses

Natural disaster in Antarctica: a large giant ice shelf has collapsed into a thousand pieces, as seen in the images captured before and after the breakup by the European Sentinel-2 satellite of the Copernicus program, of the European Space Agency and the European Commission.

This happened after an anomalous heat wave recorded in mid-March, when the temperature in the Antarctic plateau rose more than 40 degrees above normal, marking an unprecedented record with the thermometer indicating the warmest temperature of the period, 11.8 degrees below zero.

The heat wave lasted about a week: the temperature started to rise on March 16, then peaked at -11.8 degrees on March 18 and then gradually returned to normal around March 23.

Antarctica: A huge ice shelf collapses

Experts said: "The Antarctic plateau is a white desert, characterized by very dry air, always clear skies and very rare precipitations: in those days, however, humid air arrived, many clouds appeared and it even snowed.

Blame the jet stream, the channeled air flow that at the edge of the troposphere regulates the circulation of perturbations: in mid-March it formed a very narrow loop that slipped over the plateau, bringing with it a mass of humid and mild air that was stationed on the ocean between Antarctica and Australia.

A meteorological anomaly caused by climate change? We still don't know. The models of global warming indicate that this type of extreme events with a hot matrix could become more and more probable and frequent, but at the moment we lack a case study to verify it, that is, we cannot exclude that the episode recorded is the result of chance: for now the temperatures in the Antarctic plateau do not show an upward trend, unlike what we see on the coasts and peninsula of Antarctica as well as in the Arctic." We recall that as reported by Copernicus Climate Change Service, the European climate service, the month of March0 2022 was one of the warmest months ever globally.

The global average temperature for March 2022 was approximately 0.4ºC above the 1991-2020 average. Europe bucking the trend: March was the third coldest in the last 10 years. The problem is more serious in the Arctic, with the fourth warmest March on record.

In Antarctica, daily records for maximum temperatures have been broken. As regards Antarctica, the extent of sea ice for the month of March was 26% below the 1991-2020 average. The areas most affected by the phenomenon were those of the Ross, Amundsen and northern Weddell seas.

Instead, as regards the Arctic, the extent of sea ice was 3% below the 1991-2020 average. Copernicus Climate Change Service: "There has been a contrast in temperature anomalies in Europe, with warmer-than-average conditions in the north and colder-than-average conditions in the south. Cold conditions have spread to northern Africa and Russia."