Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Climate change consequences poles apart

PENN STATE (US) — Climate change induced warming affects ice and frozen ground at both the North and South poles, but the ramifications differ because of geography and geology.

“The polar regions, particularly the Arctic, are warming faster than the rest of the world,” says Michael Gooseff, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Penn State. “As a consequence, polar ecosystems respond directly to changes in the earth systems at the poles.”

Though different, the changes could be significant—not only on lcal environments but globally as well.

While the central part of the Arctic is composed of ice over water, northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia, and Greenland all have landmasses within the Arctic Circle. The associated land and water ecosystems are affected by melting ice and thawing soils, but in Antarctica, where much of the ice overlays a continent, the warming alters streams, lakes, and the tiny plants and animals that live there.

“Our focus on the north is in part because it is inhabited, but it is also because the ice there is more vulnerable,” Gooseff says. “Temperatures and snow and rain across the tundra shifts annually and seasonally. We know that fall is beginning later than it once did.” More