Antarctica & Climate Change, What Would A Greened Antarctica Look Like? – Plants Of Prehistoric Antarctica, Meyer Desert Formation Biota, & Speculation On The Future
Antarctica is an alien world in some ways. While many of the animals that visit its shores, or live on them, are recognizable, as are the plants, lichens, and algae there as well, the sheer intemperate quality of the place leads to blunt rearrangement of “ordinary” circumstance — with the place seeming familiar in many ways, but with a sense of strangeness and chance to it that isn’t found in many other parts of the world at this point.
A place where it’s too cold and dry for much to grow other than organisms that could possibly do well even if they were left on a literally alien world — extremophile microbes, various though types of lichen, fungi, pink algae, etc.
The continent hasn’t always been this way though. Even as recently as 3-4 million years ago there were patches of forest remaining in isolated areas, before eventually being subsumed completely by the ice sheets. Leaving the desert-like place that the interior of Antarctica now is.
Anthropogenic climate change will be changing this over the coming centuries and millennia though, though to what degree is up for debate — with the melting of West Antarctica seemingly being inevitable at this point, and the melting of large tracts (or all) of East Antarctica seemingly now a real possibility.
Presuming a ‘business as usual’ path is followed, as far as cumulative emissions go, to the close of the century, it should take an estimated ~400,000 years for all of the carbon dioxide that will be released into the atmosphere as a result of industrial human activity to be removed, and for the weather and climate to settle back into their own patterns. (This estimate incorporates what’s known about various feedback loops, such as permafrost melting and methane release, as well as the way the carbon cycle has responded in prehistory to various associated factors.)
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