Antarctic Has Seen Widespread Change In Last 50 Years

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This new paper reports from three more sites, stretching from the very northern Elephant Island to Lazarev Bay.

Salzmann ran simulations using a computer model of the Earth system, which showed that reducing Antarctica's land height would cause it to warmer quicker.

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

"This gives us a much clearer idea of the scale over which these changes are occurring", said lead author Matthew Amesbury of the University of Exeter.

"These changes, combined with increased ice-free land areas from glacier retreat, will drive large-scale adjustment to the biological functioning, appearance, and landscape of the [Antarctic peninsula] over the rest of the 21st century and beyond", they write.

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.

Researchers from Exeter and Cambridge universities and the British Antarctic Survey studied a 150-year period of moss growth in the Antarctic Peninsula by taking samples from the material laid down each year.

Professor Robinson said while the rate of growth increase was surprising, it wasn't unexpected, given the rate of warming in the Antarctic Peninsula.

If there's a colour associated with Antarctica, it's white.

"Antarctica is not going to become entirely green, but it will become more green than it now is", Amesbury added.

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"Whilst we are talking about a greening and our results show quite strongly there is likely to be increased moss growth in terms of the rate and spatial coverage, as a whole the Antarctic will remain a white place for a long time to come".

We did say 'Go green, ' but this is really not what we had in mind.

Experts note that previously known factors responsible for the different rates of warming in the Arctic and Antarctic (primarily a decrease in the proportion of the reflected light due to the melting of the ice), also contribute to global warming.

The researchers said they'll continue to examine core records dating back over thousands of years to test how much climate change affected ecosystems before human activity started causing global warming.

"The Antarctic is perhaps thought of as a very remote region, one of the last places that might be relatively untouched by humankind", Dr Amesbury said.

Plant life on Antarctica is growing rapidly due to climate change, scientists have found.

"I don't see too much of a problem with regional moss species", said Hodgson "and there are also two grasses that have been found".

"Although there was variability within our data, the consistency of what we found across different sites was striking".

'In short, we could see Antarctic greening to parallel well established observations in the Arctic'.

The next step, the researchers say, is to study cores from the oldest moss banks in the region - believed to date back 5,000 to 6,000 years.