Antarctica is greening due to global warming

Antarctic moss banks

Antarctica is greening due to global warming

According to University of Exeter researchers, increasing temperatures have resulted in more rapid moss growth in the icy region, something facilitated by a mixture of warming temperatures as well as increased moisture and wind.

"The results of that analysis lead us to believe there will be a future "greening" of the Antarctic and a further increase in moss growth rates".

"The general public has generally heard about the Arctic warming rapidly, and so if somebody asks themselves why Antarctic has not yet warmed so much, this actually gives the explanation", Salzmann said.

Such a finding would be a happy discovery on any other island, but in Antarctica, it would mean that the ice is in danger of melting or breaking away - a very chilling effect of climate change.

Lead researcher Matt Amesbury said the research focused on moss banks that slowly accumulate by growing a few millimetres each summer along the peninsula.

Strikingly green moss carpet on Barrientos Island, South Shetland Islands.

Fellow research Professor Dan Charman, also from Exeter, said the changes were likely to be significant. The moss itself isn't new, but it is certainly taking advantage of a warming planet.

The conclusions were based on moss bank cores taken from a span of approximately 400 miles, stretching from Green Island to Elephant Island.

Dr Matt Amesbury, who took part in the study, told The Independent: "What we found were these large, dramatic changes occurring in all of our cores".

A team of British researchers have tested three separate sites and concluded that the quantity of moss and the pace the plant is growing at has increased rapidly in the last 50 years.

"This is another indicator that Antarctica is moving backward in geologic time - which makes sense, considering atmospheric Carbon dioxide levels have already risen to levels that the planet hasn't seen since the Pliocene, 3 million years ago, when the Antarctic ice sheet was smaller, and sea-levels were higher", said Rob DeConto, a glaciologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who was not involved in the study but reviewed it for the Washington Post.

"The moss banks grow upwards over time".

The latest study claims the rate of moss growth is now four to five times higher than it was pre-1950.

Average annual temperatures on the peninsula - the panhandle that points toward South America - have gone up almost 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 1950s, when researchers started keeping detailed weather records.

The team then analysed the cores, examining the top 20cm of each to allow the scientists to look back over 150 years and explore changes over time across a number of factors.

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