Scientists and environmentalists are meeting in Bremen this week to discuss the state of one of the world's most important regions in terms of climate regulation - Antarctica.
Discussions on Antarctic research will include the effects of ice erosion
More than 850 polar experts from 35 countries arrived in Bremen on Sunday to begin "Science Week," a series of discussions and lectures on new findings in Antarctic research. The center of attention will shift further up the north coast of Germany to Bremerhaven at the beginning of August where a further six days of meetings between delegates will take place.
The 28th Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) Meeting is the biggest of its kind in the world and acts as a forum for research bodies to promote their future projects and proposals for international collaboration on climate change and other environmental issues.
On the opening day, Edelgard Bulmahn, Germany's Minister of Science, announced that the German government would finance the €26 million construction of the new Neumayer III polar station in the Antarctic. Such an investment would secure Germany's position at the pinnacle of international polar research.
In terms of climatology, Antarctica is of the utmost importance as it is seen as the measuring instrument for global environmental change. Scientists call it the "iced up key to the earth." The sea and seasonal changes around Antarctica control many aspects of the planet's climate.
Antarctica plays a huge climatic role
The collapse of ice shelves like the Larsen B is a concern to polar experts.
The strong flow of the Circumpolar Current from west to east around Antarctica connects the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Ocean basins and their currents. The resulting global circulation redistributes heat and other properties, influencing patterns of temperature and rainfall.
Another major influence on the Earth's climate comes from the extent and thickness of sea-ice around Antarctica. Its formation is the largest single seasonal phenomenon on Earth, doubling the size of Antarctica each year. As well as reflecting the sun's heat, this annual ice formation injects salt into the ocean, making the water denser and causing it to flow downwards aiding those currents in neighboring oceans which dictate climates around the Earth.
The ice itself holds many keys to the future of the planet. Core samples taken from Antarctica have shown the ages of the Earth and have given scientists possible glimpses into the future of the planet.
Global warming hampering climate regulation
Global warming, however, has begun to affect Antarctica's ability to regulate the planet's climate. While the formation of sea-ice continues year-on-year, larger sections of ice shelves are collapsing during warmer spells, reducing the land mass that is increased annually. It is feared that such reductions have already begun to reduce Antarctica's influence on weather and tidal systems.
The majority of discussions during "Science Week" will focus on new ways of reading the information Antarctica compiles on the state of the world's climate, the current state of the hole in the Ozone Layer over the Antarctic and ways to stop and reverse the damaging trends that are slowly beginning to hamper the icy continent's work in regulating the planet's weather.