The Antarctic Peninsula is undergoing a widespread transformation after a half-century of warming, fueling a “greening” at the edges of the inhospitable continent at the bottom of the world, new research concludes.
Average annual temperatures on the peninsula — the panhandle that points toward South America — have gone up nearly 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 1950s, when researchers started keeping detailed weather records. And the banks of moss that cover portions of the peninsula point to “a very widespread biological response” to climate change, said Matt Amesbury, a paleoclimatologist at Britain’s University of Exeter.
“Under future warming scenarios, there is likely to be a greening of the Antarctic Peninsula, both in terms of further increases in growth rates and also a likely expansion of the extent of these moss growths,” Amesbury said. As glaciers in the region continue to retreat, “It’s very likely in the future that we will see increased growth rates of the mosses, but also those mosses covering a wider area,” he said.