|Prof Melanie Leng with Dr Robert Mulvany|
(British Antarctic Survey) examining ice from the Antarctic Peninsula
|The Antarctic Peninsula is experiencing|
one of the highest rates of warming on the
Planet over the last century
There are several ways to get evidence on past climates around the Antarctic continent, we can look at the amount of freshwater (from melting of the ice) entering the coastal environment from the chemistry of algae that live in the coastal zone, we can obtain past temperatures from the chemistry of coastal ice caps, and we can calculate temperatures and CO2 changes preserved in small pioneering plants that are found in pockets around Antarctica. Here at the British Geological Survey we have used all these methods to obtain climate “proxies” back through time for the Antarctic Peninsula.
|Mosses from the Antarctic Peninsula are being|
used to look at modern climate change and
how it is affecting plant communities
Much of our proxy data confirms what we already know, there are natural and manmade influences on climate at different scales. Our studies help provide evidence for policy makers and Governments (like the Intergovermental Panal on Climate Change) but to you and I it helps demonstrate how fragile our planet is and how humanity is likely to profoundly transform the Earth in ways that we can only imagine by looking at proxy data from the geological archives.
Prof Melanie Leng is an isotope geochemist and palaeoclimatologist at the BGS. This research is in collaboration with many scientists in the UK including colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey, and the Universities of Cambridge, Exeter, and Cardiff.
(1) Pike, J., Swann, G.A.E., Leng, M.J., Snelling, A. 2013. Glacial discharge along the west Antarctic Peninsula during the Holocene. Nature Geoscience, 6, 199-202.
(2) Abram,N.J., Mulvaney,R., Wolff, E.W., Triest,J., Kipfstuhl,S., Trusel,L.D., Vimeux,F., Fleet, L. & Arrowsmith, C. 2013. Acceleration of snow melt in an Antarctic Peninsula ice core during the twentieth century. Nature Geoscience, 6, 404-411.
(3) Royles, J., Amesbury, M.J., Convey, P., Griffiths, H., Hodgson, D.A., Leng, M.J., Charman, D.J. 2013. Plants and soil microbes respond to recent warming on the Antarctic Peninsula. Current Biology, 23, 1702-1706.