Climate Change - Polar Region Impact

The Arctic in the Northern Hemisphere and Antarctica in the Southern Hemisphere comprise the Earth’s polar regions. One of the main differences between the two polar regions is that the Arctic is inhabited by nearly four million people, while Antarctica is usually inhabited by no one (except researchers).

Experts believe that the Artic will experience the most significant rates of warming, in comparison with the other world regions. This is partly due to the greater reflectivity of the ice, as opposed to that of water or land. When these highly reflective layers are melted away, more of the darker, more light-absorbing parts of the Earth are revealed, thereby gradually heating up the overall temperature of the Earth, with an extra substantial increase of heat in those specific areas. There is already evidence available that illustrates how climate change is having observable effects on both the Arctic and Antarctica.

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment was released in 2004. This report was requested by the Arctic Council and generated by an international team of scientists. The report containing several alarming conclusions about the Arctic, including:
• Average Arctic temperatures have risen nearly twice the rate as in other parts of the world throughout the past few decades.
• Additional evidence of intense Arctic warming presented by rising permafrost temperatures and widespread melting observed in glaciers.
• Both of the aforementioned trends are expected to continue throughout this century.
• The release of greenhouse gasses from vegetation and coastal oceans is extremely likely to be altered by warming.
• The rapid melting of Arctic glaciers is contributing to worldwide sea-levels rising.
• Local wildlife is expected to face increasing challenges and diminishing livable areas due to the reduction of sea ice. This will also affect the people that inhabit these areas that rely on that wildlife as a food source.

Similar to the Arctic in the Northern Hemisphere, Antarctica in the Southern Hemisphere has endured vast negative impacts due to regional climate change. And also like the Arctic, the future is expected to hold more drastic consequences in this region of the world.

A marked warming trend was been observed over the past fifty years in the Antarctic Peninsula. In contrast, many other parts of the icy continent have cooled during the past 30 years, which can be attributed to the depletion of the ozone as well as other factors, but this trend is also very likely to reverse. The Southern Ocean’s surface waters that surround Antarctica have grown warmer and less saline, and rainfall in this area has increased.

Although Global Warming has subjected Antarctica to substantial retreat and collapse of its ice shelves, it has had little effect on sea-levels worldwide. This is due to the fact that the ice shelves were already floating, so their melting has no direct on sea levels.

With the persistence of climate change in the Antarctic region, much of the land-based ice sheet is expected to thicken if the projected warming causes increased snowfall.