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Global Warming Melts Antarctic Ice, Endangers Pakistan’s Peaks


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The record-low levels of sea ice around Antarctica in recent years have sparked significant concerns about the global implications of climate change. A groundbreaking study by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) highlights the extreme nature of this event and its likely connections to climate change. This article explores how these changes in Antarctic sea ice could have far-reaching effects, including on the glaciers in Pakistan.

Antarctic Sea Ice Decline: An Alarming Trend

In 2023, Antarctic sea ice reached unprecedented low levels, a phenomenon researchers at BAS describe as a once-in-2,000-years event without climate change but four times more likely with it. This dramatic decline, noted in the Geophysical Research Letters journal, was characterized by a reduction of more than 2 million square kilometers of sea ice during winter—ten times the size of the UK. The satellite record, stretching back 45 years, had never before documented such a significant loss.

Lead author Rachel Diamond explained that this reduction could have long-lasting impacts. Even if some recovery occurs, sea ice levels might remain relatively low for decades, affecting local ecosystems and potentially altering global weather patterns.

The Role of Sea Ice in Climate Regulation

Antarctica’s sea ice plays a crucial role in regulating Earth’s temperature. The ice’s reflective surface bounces sunlight back into space, cooling the waters beneath and maintaining the planet’s climate balance. Without this natural thermostat, the planet would face significantly higher temperatures.

The reduction in sea ice is already having profound effects on the Antarctic ecosystem. The loss impacts species such as penguins and whales, which depend on the ice for habitat. Furthermore, the reduction in ice shelves, which act as barriers at the end of glaciers, is accelerating the rate of ice loss into the ocean.

Linking Antarctic Ice Loss to Pakistan’s Glaciers

Pakistan, home to over 7,000 glaciers, is experiencing the direct consequences of global climate change. The Shounter Valley in Pakistan-held Kashmir, known for its stunning glaciers, is facing increased risks from glacier melt and resulting flash floods.

Local volunteer Muhammad Luqman has voiced concerns about the rapid melting of glaciers. “The rate at which glaciers are melting is alarming,” he says. “If a glacier bursts, as happened in Gilgit-Baltistan last year, it could endanger 15,000 people in this area.”

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that over 3,000 lakes have formed due to melting glaciers in the Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions. Thirty-three of these lakes are at risk of flooding, threatening the lives and livelihoods of more than 7 million people downstream.

The Broader Implications of Melting Glaciers

The melting of glaciers in Pakistan is not an isolated incident but part of a broader pattern of climate change-induced glacial retreat worldwide. Last year, Pakistan experienced unprecedented flooding and unexpected monsoon rainfall, resulting in one-third of the country being submerged and 1,700 lives lost.

The economic and social impacts of such events are profound. The 2022 floods affected over 33 million people, primarily in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, highlighting the urgent need for climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Antarctic sea

The record-low levels of Antarctic sea ice are a stark indicator of the accelerating impacts of climate change. This decline not only threatens the delicate ecosystems of the Antarctic but also has significant implications for distant regions such as Pakistan. As Antarctic ice continues to diminish, the cascading effects on global sea levels and weather patterns will increasingly challenge vulnerable regions already grappling with the consequences of climate change. Addressing these issues requires a concerted global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop robust climate resilience strategies.

Wasim Qadri
Wasim Qadri
Islamabad based Senior Journalist, TV Show Host, Media Trainer, can be follow on twitter @jaranwaliya

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