“Global warming” starts with “Ocean warming”
Most of Earth's excess heat is actually in our oceans, and predominantly around Antarctica.
The ocean has absorbed more than 90% of the excess heat and around 30% of the extra carbon dioxide humans have generated since the start of the industrial age. This has greatly reduced the impact of climate change at the Earth’s surface.
Most exchange of gases and heat between the atmosphere and the ocean occurs in the Southern Ocean - the sea surrounding Antarctica.
The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest single mass of ice on Earth. But it has been losing mass since 2002. Antarctic sea ice reached an early winter record low in June 2023.
The melting of this great reservoir of ice will disrupt the climate and accelerating sea-level rise.
It also poses a threat to wildlife, most notably and sadly, the Emperor Penguin.
Emperor Penguins in danger
Researchers estimate there are about 600,000 emperor penguins spread around Antarctica in about 60 colonies. As Antarctica warms and sea ice shrinks, the future of these majestic birds is in jeopardy.
Emperor penguins breed on sea ice that’s frozen fast to the shore. If that ice breaks free and drifts away, then the penguin chicks, not yet having grown their adult waterproof feathers, may fall into the sea and drown or freeze to death in the icy water.
It has been estimated that 90% of Emperor colonies could be extinct by the end of the century.