Antarctica Current Affairs - 2019

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Antarctic ice loss altering earth’s gravity: Study

A new scientific study has found that a sudden and massive ice loss in a previously stable region of Antarctica is causing small changes in the gravitational field of the Earth.

This study was led by Dr Bert Wouters, a Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Bristol, England and was recently published in Science Journal.

Key highlights of Study

  • The changes were observed using the CryoSat-2 satellite, a mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) dedicated to remote-sensing of ice.
  • Researchers have found that the ice surface of some of the glaciers is currently going down by as much as 4 m each year.
  • They also have found out that Southern Antarctic Peninsula showed no signs of change up to 2009. But after 2009, multiple glaciers along a vast coastal expanse suddenly started to shed ice into the ocean.
  • These glaciers measure around 750 km in length and are shrinking nearly at a constant rate of 60 cubic km and adding about 55 trillion litres of water each year.
  • With level of shrinking, this region now has become the second largest contributor to sea level rise in Antarctica and causing small changes in the gravity field of the Earth.

India’s first Polar Remotely Operated Vehicle operationalised in North Antarctica

India’s first Polar Remotely Operated Vehicle (PROVe) was successfully operationalised for research in North Antarctica by National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).

PROVe was operationalised, after it had undergone series of trials in Antarctica in the past two months since its deployment by the NIOT researchers.

It has been deployed in Priyadarshini Lake located on the Schirmacher Oasis which is a major source of water for Maitri, India’s second base in the Antarctica.

Key facts of PROVe

  • Indigenously built by NIOT under the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • Capable of probing the sea bed under normal temperature and capable of exploring up to 200 meters in inhospitable and tough regions like the ice clad Antarctica.
  • Operated remotely by scientists on board the ship and has inbuilt thrusters allowing it for 360-degree movement.
  • Will help researchers to study and find out details about dissolved oxygen in sea bottom, salinity and the quantity of sunlight hitting the bottom of the sea.
  • The results and outcomes will help researchers in understanding the biological activities taking place inside the sea.

Implications of its operationalisation in Antartica

  • Its breakthrough is a great leap forward in forecasting with precision the ever elusive Monsoon, a climatic phenomenon which determines India’s economy.
  • In case of forecasting Monsoon, PROVe will measure parameters like ocean currents, temperature and salinity in the Arctic.
  • It will especially help scientist to move away from present Mathematical models for forecasting the Monsoon which many times vary from initial forecasts.

Current operation will collect data for analysis in June 2015. This data will be used for analyzing hypothesis about the link between Antarctic Ocean currents and Indian monsoon system.