Sea change: Keeping Antarctica frozen to save the world

Far as it may be from humanity, Antarctica regulates the global climate. Its fate is intertwined with the rest of the world, especially for small island states like Singapore. In the first edition of the relaunched Science section every Monday, The Straits Times, which visited the icy continent, explores how helping it stay frozen could keep global sea levels from rising too quickly.

At 11pm, the sunset over the Gerlache Strait during the austral summer is twilight at its best. As the Antarctic Peninsula warms at a faster rate than the rest of the continent, this landscape could see dramatic change as the sea level rises. Sea ice
At 11pm, the sunset over the Gerlache Strait during the austral summer is twilight at its best. As the Antarctic Peninsula warms at a faster rate than the rest of the continent, this landscape could see dramatic change as the sea level rises.ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM
At 11pm, the sunset over the Gerlache Strait during the austral summer is twilight at its best. As the Antarctic Peninsula warms at a faster rate than the rest of the continent, this landscape could see dramatic change as the sea level rises. Sea ice
Sea ice is crucial to marine animals such as crabeater seals, which use them as platforms for rest and to moult.ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM
At 11pm, the sunset over the Gerlache Strait during the austral summer is twilight at its best. As the Antarctic Peninsula warms at a faster rate than the rest of the continent, this landscape could see dramatic change as the sea level rises. Sea ice
Wedged between a coastline and a calving glacier, the historical site of Brown Station at Paradise Bay will be one of the first to bear the effects of sea-level rise.ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM
A thick blanket of snow at Paradise Bay. Polar historian Gerard Baker, who spent over 20 years working in Antarctica, says some places where he used to ski are now rocks as the glaciers have receded.
A thick blanket of snow at Paradise Bay. Polar historian Gerard Baker, who spent over 20 years working in Antarctica, says some places where he used to ski are now rocks as the glaciers have receded. ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

It feels apt that the southern-most continent of Antarctica, whipped by harsh winds and covered in ice, should be relegated to the end of the world, beyond the realm of human existence.

Yet, life in any other part of the planet would not be the same if the world were to lose this icy desert.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2020, with the headline 'Sea change'. Subscribe