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Human presence has accelerated snow melting in Antarctica: Report

  • Published
    25th Feb, 2022

As per a new report, Human presence has accelerated snow melting in Antarctica.


Findings of the report:

  • Black carbon (BC) concentration in Antarctica is considerably higher around research stations and popular tourist destinations than other parts of the continent.
  • Black carbon-impacted areas are seeing a shrinking of snowpack on the Antarctic Peninsula and associated archipelagoes by up to 23 millimetres water equivalent every summer.
  • Black carbon content in snow surrounding research facilities and popular shore tourist-landing sites was 2-4 nanogram per gram of snow (ng / g).

About Black Carbon:

  • Black carbon is the sooty black material emitted from gas and diesel engines, coal-fired power plants, and other sources that burn fossil fuel.
  • It comprises a significant portion of particulate matter or PM, which is an air pollutant.
  • Black carbon (BC) from fossil fuel and biomass combustion darkens the snow and makes it melt sooner. 
  • Black carbon is generally thought to have both a direct warming effect (by absorbing incoming solar radiation in the atmosphere and converting it to heat radiation) and an indirect warming effect (by reducing the reflectivity of snow and ice).
  • Black carbon is a short-lived climate pollutant with a lifetime of only days to weeks after release in the atmosphere.
  • During this short period of time, black carbon can have significant direct and indirect impacts on the climate, the cryosphere (snow and ice), agriculture and human health.
  • Predominant sources of black carbon or soot are combustion-related, namely fossil fuels for transportation, solid fuels for industrial and residential uses as well as open burning of biomass.
  • Reducing black carbon could help keep the climate system from passing the tipping points for abrupt climate changes, including significant sea-level rise from the disintegration of the Greenland and/or Antarctic ice sheet

Types of Carbon in news:

  • Black Carbon
    • Black carbon (BC) is a component of fine particulate matter of the size 2.5 μm.
    • It consists of pure carbon, which originates from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, coal, biofuel, biomass, wood, rubber, etc.
    • It is emitted in the form of soot.
    • Soot is an airborne mass of impure carbon particles resulting from the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. It originates from pyrolysis.
  • Brown Carbon
    • Brown carbon is brown smoke released by the combustion of organic matter.
    • It coexists with black carbon when released in the atmosphere.
    • It is one of the significant warming factors as it disturbs the temperature pattern of the atmosphere and the cloud forming process.
    • It also changes the solar absorption pattern and the nature of clouds.
  • Blue Carbon
    • It is the carbon captured by the world’s oceans and coastal ecosystems.
    • This carbon is captured by living organisms in oceans is stored in the form of aquatic biomass.
    • Seagrasses, mangroves, and marshes are types of vegetated coastal blue carbon ecosystems; these habitats have a cover of approximately 49 million hectares worldwide.
    • Blue carbon ecosystem act as the major sink for capturing atmospheric carbon and reducing warming effects.
  • Green Carbon
    • It is the carbon captured into terrestrial plant biomass in photosynthesis and stored in the plants and soil of natural ecosystems and is a vital part of the global carbon cycle.
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