On March 18, 2022, the world’s two polar regions, the Arctic and Antarctica, experienced an anomalous heatwave that left scientists astonished. Even more astonishing was the fact that both the regions experienced the heatwave simultaneously.
Heatwaves in Antarctica are unusual at any point in time, but at this time, when Antarctica is entering its winter season, this heatwave is more peculiar than the rest. Parts of Antarctica warmed over 40 degrees Celsius than the usual seasonal temperatures. Concordia station, which is more than 3200 meters above sea levels, hit the record-breaking temperature of -11.8 degrees Celsius. The normal temperature in this region is usually between -40 degrees to -50 degrees Celsius.
In the Arctic, where winter is ending, the temperatures rose above 30 degrees Celsius more than usual. In a report by The Associated Press, Walt Meier, a Centre Ice Scientist at NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Centre), said, “They are opposite seasons. You don’t see the north and the south (poles) both melting at the same time.”
What Caused These High Temperatures?
While there is still little information about why this sudden spark happened, climate scientists have speculated about the reason. Dr. Zachary Labe wrote on Twitter, “Both of these weather events are related to the poleward transport of heat and moisture.” Dr. Zachary Labe is a climate scientist at Colorado State University.
According to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, the Arctic is warming at the double the global rate. The report also said that the Arctic would continue to warm at a much greater rate than the average global warming leaving its summers ice-free by the 2050s. Thus, the heating in the arctic was consistent with what was predicted.
The report paints a similar picture for Antarctica. If global warming sustains between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius, we will lose the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Collapsing Ice Shelves
In similar news, the Conger ice shelf of East Antarctica broke off on March 15, 2022. Ice shelf breaking is a common event, but in recent decade, scientists have noticed several ice shelves disintegrating completely on the Antarctic peninsula. It is the consequence of global warming. The collapse of the Conger ice shelf will not have a significant global impact. But if global warming continues at the current levels, more ice shelves will collapse, eventually raising the global sea level.
This Is Not the End
We have seen the devastating impact human activities have harmed the environment. Every year brings a higher temperature, rising sea levels, and making natural calamities more likely. However, this is not the end. We all know the detrimental effect of plastic on the environment and humans.
On March 24, 2022, a paper on the presence of microplastics in human blood was published in Environment International. Out of the 22 participants of the study, researchers found microplastics in the blood of 17 participants. Microplastics are tiny plastic particles present almost everywhere on the earth. The blood samples were taken from healthy individuals.
In a report by Guardian, the author Dick Vethaak said, “Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood – it’s a breakthrough result.” He also said, “It is certainly reasonable to be concerned. The particles are there and are transported throughout the body.”
It is hard to determine how microplastic would have reached the participants because of their ubiquitous nature. While more research is required to determine the health risks, the fact that microplastic alone is terrifying.
The Connection Between Plastic and Climate Change
Most of the plastic we produce ultimately ends up in the ocean. The slow breakdown of plastics in the ocean releases greenhouse gases. Similarly, incinerating plastic to destroy is a major source of greenhouse gases. This, in turn, causes global warming.
Whether we can save ourselves from the catastrophic effects of climate change is in our hands. Reducing emissions and stopping the use & production of plastic are necessary to stop this human-induced climate change.