For scientists, the scenario of rapid melting and collapse of part of Antarctica is very real and could undoubtedly happen faster than thought.
Published on December 25, 2023 7:47 p.m
Reading time: 1 min
A scientific study published in December 2023 highlights the role of octopuses in understanding climate change. (DAVE BARNES / BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY)
Antarctica has had a turbulent history between ice ages and global warming. Scientists are trying to predict how the polar ice cap might develop with the current rise in temperatures. And they can count on the valuable and unexpected help of the octopuses. Thanks to these animals, scientists have discovered that part of the ice cap may be melting faster than expected. This is the conclusion of a study published on Thursday, December 21st in the journal Science.
To do this, scientists examined the genome of Turquet octopuses, which live around Antarctica in different seas that are now separated by ice. These communities therefore develop in isolation from each other. But in fact, by studying the DNA of these octopuses, scientists concluded that they were able to mate freely in the past. In other words, West Antarctica was ice-free 125,000 years ago. At that time, the Amundsen, Ross and Weddell Seas were connected by ice-free sea passages.
Understanding current phenomena allows us to compare the two eras. 125,000 years ago the planet experienced a period of warming. The temperatures back then were around 1.5 degrees warmer than in the pre-industrial revolution. Which is not dissimilar…
In fact, 1.5 degrees higher than pre-industrial times is almost the average temperature increase the Earth is currently experiencing. For scientists, the scenario of rapid melting and collapse of part of Antarctica is therefore very real and could undoubtedly happen faster than thought. This melting 125,000 years ago caused sea levels to rise by 5 to 10 meters.
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