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Airdate: Dec 10, 2002
Scientist: Michael Oppenheimer

Melting Polar: Antarctica

Melting Polar: Antarctica
Global warming seems to be melting the North Pole, but the earth's rising temperature is expected to have a very different effect on the South Pole.

Transcript:

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ambience: ocean

The earth's rising temperature appears to be melting the ice at the North Pole. But scientists say that global warming could have a very different effect at the South Pole. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. The Arctic icepack has become smaller and thinner over recent decades. Michael Oppenheimer is the chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. He says that the North Polar icepack may completely disappear within this century during the summers. But he predicts a different global warming scenario at the South Pole, where the ice is surrounded by land.

"Antarctica is colder than the North Polar region because of the presence of the land mass which keeps the moderating influence of the oceans away from the pole. As the world warms, the first manifestation of the change in Antarctica is expected to be an increase in precipitation, basically more snowfall, which could actually lead to an increase in sea ice rather than a decrease."

Most of the South Polar icecap is over land rather than water. And a change in the land-based ice presents a special problem.

"Sea ice, like the ice in a glass of water, floats and if it melts, sea level doesn't rise. You can check that one out yourself by looking at some ice water. On the other hand, in Antarctica, most of the ice is sitting on land, so if melts, that water would get transferred in the ocean and would have a remarkable effect on global sea level."

Michael Oppenheimer and other scientists warn that rise in sea level could cause flooding and coastal erosion.

To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

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