As fall sets in here in the northern hemisphere, our changing global climate is lining up to render yet another unprecedented summer along the Antarctic Peninsula.
Arguably the most rapidly rising temperatures anywhere on earth, mid-winter temperatures along the Peninsula have risen 10 degrees Fahrenheit over 60 years. The impacts are hard to miss. The annual sea ice has retreated dramatically with its seasonal duration and extent offshore reduced by some 40 percent over the past 30 years.
The Wilkins Ice Shelf, a floating ice sheet several hundred feet thick the size of Connecticut, may sever its tenuous grip on the peninsula and join eight other large ice shelves that have departed since 1980. And as the ice shelves separate from the mainland, they deprive it of an important bulwark and make it easier for glaciers to flow into the sea and melt.
We might joke about building sea walls around real estate in Florida and Manhattan, but with melting glaciers along the Antarctic Peninsula and Greenland contributing increasingly to sea level rise, this is no longer a laughing matter.