Melting of ice shelves in West Antarctica speeds up and slows down in response to changes in deep ocean temperature, and is far more variable than previously thought, according to new research publ

A domino-like cascade of melting ice, warming seas, shifting currents and dying forests could tilt the Earth into a “hothouse” state beyond which human efforts to reduce emissions will be increasin

Three decades after its first mission to Antarctica, the government is refocusing priorities to the other pole — the Arctic — because of opportunities and challenges posed by climate change.

Considering the swarming biodiversity at the equator, and the lack of diversity near the poles, scientists have long assumed that species evolve more rapidly in warm waters.

It can be easy to overlook the monstrous scale of the Antarctic ice sheet. Ice, thick enough in many places to bury mountains, covers a continent roughly the size of the US and Mexico combined.

Ice melting in Antarctica is causing sea levels to rise at a massive rate and the frozen continent has lost about 3 trillion tonnes of ice in the last 25 years.

Antartica is a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”, according to the Antarctic Treaty System. This complex set of agreements collectively takes a firm stance on conservation, exemplified by the Convention on the Conservation of Marine Living Resources. Adopted in 1980, this convention was negotiated rapidly in response to expanding trawling of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). Krill are at the base of the region’s marine food web, so there were worries that a dearth of the small crustaceans would threaten the whole ecosystem, especially whales.

Of the common adjectives used to describe Earth’s southern polar region, ‘pristine’ is among the most inappropriate. The ocean around Antarctica bobs with pieces of microplastic pollution, and for decades, whales and other marine life have been stripped from the sea. The ozone hole gapes above. To find any of the advertised unspoiled wilderness, a visitor has to trek inshore and away from the direct influence of the rest of the world. Because there is another misapplied label: remote.

The melting of Antarctica is accelerating at an alarming rate, with about 3 trillion tons of ice disappearing since 1992, an international team of ice experts said in a new study.

A growing network of ice cores reveals the past 800,000 years of Antarctic climate and atmospheric composition. The data show tight links among greenhouse gases, aerosols and global climate on many timescales, demonstrate connections between Antarctica and distant locations, and reveal the extraordinary differences between the composition of our present atmosphere and its natural range of variability as revealed in the ice core record.