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Antarctica

Scientists Discover First Methane Leak In Antarctica’s Seabed

Scientists recently discovered an active leak of methane gas coming from the sea floor of Antarctica. These findings were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society scientific journal, and are worrying many researchers who know that methane gas is likely going to accelerate the process of global heating even more so than it already is.

Methane is one of the greenhouse gases that leads to an acceleration in global warming; much like carbon dioxide does. In normal conditions, when the gas is present under layers of ice, microorganisms living within the ice consume it and slow down the process of it being leaked back into the atmosphere. However, the damage of climate change that the planet has already endured has hindered the effectiveness of this process in Antarctica. 

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The methane leak referred to in the findings initially appeared back in 2011 and, at the time, the microorganisms present took five years to appear and consume a majority of the gas. Now, researchers found that gas is still leaking into the atmosphere despite the presence of these microorganisms. Dr. Andrew Thurer, the oceanographer who led the study, is concerned about these findings, and claims it could take up to a decade for the gas to be consumed, and by then it may be too late. 

“Vast amounts of methane are stored under sea ice. Antarctica is estimated to contain as much as a quarter of Earth’s marine methane.” 

The impact of excessive methane leaks in the planet’s atmosphere is extremely damaging. As global temperatures continue to increase, ice caps/glaciers will continue to melt, and sea levels will rise. That lack of ice is what leads to methane leaks, as there’s less protective layers to contain the methane and house the microorganisms necessary to consume the gas.  

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NASA warned the world in 2018 that the thawing of ice in the Arctic would lead to gas leaks that will cause the planet’s climate to rise at an even more alarming rate than what it’s currently at. Scientists have also long considered the release of methane specifically from ice as a “tipping point in climate change,” which essentially means the effects of global warming have reached an irreversible level. 

Until now, there have been no active methane leaks in Antarctica, and while scientists did confirm that this particular leak came from an unknown source likely unrelated to climate change, its presence it’s still worrisome. 

The only silver lining, according to Thurer, is that these findings can work to deepen climate scientists’ understanding of the way that methane is “consumed and released in Antarctica, something which very little was known before.” Gaining this understanding in Antarctica specifically is key, especially considering the presence of methane could be extremely detrimental to the future of Earth’s climate. 

“Our results suggest that the accuracy of future global climate models may be improved by considering the time it will take for microbial communities to respond to novel methane input.” 

While research on microorganisms absorbing methane gas is a timely process, gaining these insights can help researchers understand how these organisms work, and could potentially lead to the invention of some sort of man-made version of the organisms which can better aide the process of absorbing methane in melting ice layers in the Arctic/Antarctica.

Glacier in Antarctica

Scientists Worried About Rapid Melting Of ‘Doomsday’ Glacier In Antarctica

Climate scientists have always regarded Thwaites glacier in Antarctica as a key factor in terms of climate change and global sea-level risings. The glacier itself is seen as one of the most vulnerable to be impacted by climate change, as its collapse would raise global sea levels by more than half a meter on its own. Its melting would also cause a chain reaction for other major bodies of water in Antarctica, potentially causing sea levels to rise by three meters!

Coastal cities across the globe would be severely impacted if this were to occur, and it’s one of the reasons the glacier has the nickname “Doomsday glacier.” This year, scientists noticed there was warm water near an integral part of the glacier that has never been there before. This warm water has already caused parts of the glacier to deteriorate.

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Thwaites glacier is 76,000 square miles, about the size of England. Ice has already melted from the glacier into the Amundsen Sea and caused 4% of global sea-levels to rise. As the world continues to warm, scientists are worried for the future of this glacier and its impact on the rest of the planet. Paul Cutler is a program director for Antarctic glaciology at America’s National Science Foundation, and he recently spoke with the media about the severity of this glacier melting.  

“The big question is how quickly it becomes unstable. It seems to be teetering at the edge. It is a keystone for the other glaciers around it in Antarctica if you remove it, other ice will start draining into the ocean.” 

Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s ice, most of which remains out of the water and on the continent’s land. The average thickness of ice in Antarctica is 1.6 miles deep, but it can reach depths of up to three miles. 

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The current sea level on Earth is almost 8 inches above what it was before the industrial revolution. The main cause in this rise is an increase in global sea temperatures brought on by intense sun exposure. The sun exposure is brought on due to a depletion in the Earth’s ozone layer, which is meant to protect all of us from intense UV radiation. For nearly 2,000 years before the industrial revolution, global sea levels remained almost completely static. 

Burning fossil fuels has only increased as society has become more modernized, and that burning has only further depleted the ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere act as heat traps for the sun. These warmer temperatures obviously cause major ice sheets and glaciers to melt, as they’re not only experiencing a rise in sea temperatures, but air temperatures as well. 

The annual rate in which our global sea-levels rise has doubled since 1990. As time has gone on, the rate at which these glaciers melt has only become more unpredictable, making it difficult for scientists to understand how to better preserve them. However, this more recent melting of Thwaites was specifically brought on by a massive heat wave in the Arctic; which is on the other side of the planet. 

Both the Antarctic and Arctic regions should be our number one priority, as they’re the coldest locations in the world, however, they’re both warming at rates faster than the rest of the world as well. Global warming has already caused such massive natural destruction within the past year alone, it’s time that our world leaders understand we’re currently battling a whole other pandemic in terms of our planets temperatures.

Global Warming

Climate Change’s Present and Future Impact on Real Estate

Already, climate change is having a serious impact on global political and economic systems, and as temperatures continue to rise, this impact will only become more severe. Climate change touches nearly all aspects of human life, as governments around the world grapple with the logistics of dealing with the problem, and powerful industries such as oil and gas struggle to adapt to changing attitudes and environments. Perhaps a less-expected area affected by climate change is real estate; as the sea level rises and weather patterns shift, some properties, particularly ones close to coastlines and beaches, are experiencing a decrease in valuation as their long-term viability is called into question, whereas properties in once-undesirable locations are becoming more popular. The reality of climate change has already taken hold in the real estate industry, as investors, landlords, and homeowners attempt to prepare for the often-unpredictable effects of the phenomenon.

Investors are wise to recognize that the problem of climate change is not going away; in fact, recent studies have revealed that the impact of climate change is likely to be even more significant than previously feared, with polar ice caps melting at an alarming rate and sea level rises now expected to displace 150 million people worldwide. Moreover, the increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events brought about by higher global temperatures poses a threat to the integrity of real estate fixtures, and buildings constructed in vulnerable areas, without appropriate fortification, are at risk of collapse. Low- and moderate-income communities are at particular risk, as residents in these places are less likely to be able to afford dealing with the impacts of climate change, which at best causes property destruction and at worst can kill. 

Certainly, one of the factors in the real estate industry’s slow reaction to climate change is denial; oftentimes, the position that trends in the industry will continue as they always have is far more palatable than grappling with an unpredictable, substantial destructive force.

The Federal Reserve Board of San Fransisco recently published a collection of reports detailing the intersection of climate change and real estate. The organization warns that climate change could cause home values to fall significantly, could disincentivize banks from lending to affected communities, and towns and cities may not have the necessary resources to build sea walls and other infrastructure to protect against climate change. However, the reports also detail economic opportunities that could arise from climate change. Despite the breadth of scientific data available about climate change, the real estate industry has been slow to react, meaning plenty of investors could be caught off-guard by climate-related devaluations in their properties, whereas shrewd investors can take advantage of their understanding of climate change by investing in properties that will become popular as people relocate away from the coasts and areas where extreme weather events will be most prevalent.

A number of factors complicate the real estate industry’s response to climate change. One such factor is the nature of how flood insurance is calculated; despite the presence of more up-to-date data, calculations for the probability of floods occurring in particular locations are based on outdated maps and figures and don’t take into account rising sea levels. Additionally, the federal government subsidizes flood insurance programs, incentivizing developers to invest in coastal properties even though they are at increasingly-greater risk of destruction. Certainly, one of the factors in the real estate industry’s slow reaction to climate change is denial; oftentimes, the position that trends in the industry will continue as they always have is far more palatable than grappling with an unpredictable, substantial destructive force. As such, experts in the field are advising business leaders and other high-impact decision makers to adapt to a “new abnormal,” which involves taking a radically different and unprecedented approach to making real-estate choices, even when they may seem counter-intuitive to those who fail to consider the extent of climate change and its impacts.

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