Friday, May 26, 2017

Quickening Antarctica

Credit: Matt Amesbury
Currently, only a minute fraction of Antarctica is occupied by plant life, but a new study has shown that may soon change: even modest temperature increases along the northerly curl of the Antarctic Peninsula have dramatically affected the growth and spread of moss banks. Matt Amesbury, one of the investigators, says that if this continues the Peninsula 'will be a much greener place in the future.'

Which is of considerable interest to me, as Austral is set in that much greener place:
I was driving over flat terrain cracked into big polygonal plates and lightly covered in snow. House-sized boulders, erratics dumped by retreating ice, were dotted about like a giant’s game of marbles. Off to the left, a line of trees intermittently visible through gusts of snow marked the course of the river. More trees thickened ahead, and quite soon I was driving through the fringes of the forest, wallowing up and down low ridges, swerving left or right as trees smashed out of the darkness. Crooked spires no more than ten or twelve metres high, bent and warped by snow and ice and wind. I remembered hiking with Mama through a forest just like it the summer we escaped, remembered columns of dusty sunlight slanting between pine trees, moss and ferns thick on the ground. A green cathedral that seemed as old as the world, but had been planted out by ecopoets just forty years before.
Suggesting that climate change will make Antarctica more hospitable to life isn't a radical prediction, but it's a little disconcerting to discover that it's already happening. Here in the first quarter of the twenty-first century, history's drumbeat is quickening. Worst-case scenarios are too often exceeded. Change is the new normal. Reality threatens to outrace imagination.
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