Climate warming posing serious threats to extraterrestrial rocks in Antarctic region

Bhubaneswar: Meteorite-rich sites in Antarctica have been facing serious threats by climate warming. Many extraterrestrial rocks were lost from the surface by melting into ice sheet, in the past years. In the present emission scenario, around 5,000 meteorites become inaccessible in a year, a study revealed.

Approximately 1,000 new extraterrestrial rocks are being found in the region every year. As against this, about 24 percent of the meteorites might gradually be lost by 2050 and the total number of losses could even go up to nearly 76 percent by 2100 under a high-emission scenario, a panel of researchers opined in the journal ‘Nature Communications’.

Antarctica reigns as the globe’s foremost meteorite hunting ground, boasting over 60 percent of the Earth’s total meteorite discoveries totaling 80,000.

Extraterrestrial rocks found in the Antarctic region provide ample insights into the genesis and development of our Solar System. The ice sheet’s surface serves as an abundant repository, attracting scientists and enthusiasts alike to study these celestial fragments.

Temperature susceptibility of extraterrestrial rocks at the surface of ice sheet cause the meteorite stranding zones to disappear under changing climatic conditions, the scholars stated.

During the research, a machine learning algorithm pinpointed potential meteorite sites by analysing ice flow velocity, surface temperature, radar backscatter, and surface slope.

The classifier utilised temperature data from 2001 to 2020, focusing on the highest 1 percent of 8-day averaged observations from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), refining its accuracy in identifying meteorite locations.

“We used the MAR climate model at 35 Km resolution to project the future temperature evolution. In these dedicated high-resolution simulations, we fixed the extent of blue ice areas over time by fixing the albedo,” a member of the panel Steven Goderis said.

Utilising a data-driven methodology, the researchers have detected more than 600 areas in Antarctica abundant with meteorites. Despite this revelation, numerous of these designated meteorite stranding zones remain largely unexplored.

It is believed that a staggering 3,00,000 to 8,50,000 meteorites are still to be recovered from the vast expanse of the ice sheet in the Antarctic region.

Meteorites unearthed in Antarctica yield a rich array of materials sourced from asteroids and planets, sparking a profound transformation in the domain of meteoritics.

However, rising temperatures in the Antarctica region pose a risk of losing a considerable portion of these meteorites exposed on the surface, potentially diminishing the profound impact they have on advancing planetary science.

[This story is a part of ‘Punascha Pruthibi – One Earth. Unite for It’, an awareness campaign by Sambad Digital.]

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