Antarctica: Summer Thawing Lasting Longer

Summer thawing in parts of Antarctica is lasting longer and happening sooner according to new research.

Using satellite imagery and ground based sensors, scientists from Colgate University, New York, conclude that summer thawing occurs nearly a month earlier, and stays thawed for a full two months longer than previously believed.

Site map showing the location of water track study areas (AOIs), the spatial footprint of the AOIs (blue rectangles), the location of MCM-LTER meteorological stations used for ground temperature comparison (green dots), and the location of the active layer monitoring station used to determine water track hydroperiod at one site (purple dot). Base map is the Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (Bindschadler et al. 2008). Inset shows the location of the McMurdo Dry Valley study area in the red box. Image credit: Joe Levy/Colgate University

Researchers used newly available satellite imaging from Planet, which can scan the surface of the Earth daily or even multiple times per day.   

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Geosciences Joe Levy, explained:

“What we found was that when you can scan coastal Antarctica almost every day, not just a couple of times a summer, we see that the ground is actually thawing and turning into icy swamps a full month earlier than we used to think, and it’s staying wet and thawed a full two months later, even into March.

“What’s even more fascinating is that this ground is thawing and staying thawed at temperatures below freezing, so we know salts must be helping it to melt and keeping it muddy, like salting a road during a snowstorm.”

Click on this link for their report: Timing and duration of ephemeral Antarctic water tracks and wetlands using high temporal–resolution satellite imagery, high spatial–resolution satellite imagery, and ground-based sensors in the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Resesarch.