Environment Forum

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Antarctic soccer, barbecues and warming

For anyone who thinks (like I did) that Antarctica is a bone-chilling freezer lashed by constant blizzards, a visit to the Antarctic Peninsula is a surprise.

As you can see from the picture, you can even play soccer at the British Rothera research station -- Stuart Mc Dill of Reuters TV (a skilled left winger) and I (unskilled) joined in a game last night and I have the grazes to prove it. Our team managed to win, 4-2, on the gravel pitch outside the plane hangar -- meteorologist Ali Price brilliantly knocked in three, even though he was wearing a pair of clunking hiking boots.

And last weekend, staff had an outdoor barbecue with steaks and a cooler for drinks made from snow scooped up by a bulldozer.

At Rothera, summer temperatures now are comparable to the winter in England, where the British Antarctic Survey has its headquarters in Cambridge. On "warm" days, when temperatures climb to about 7 Celsius, some in Antarctica staff wander around outside in tee-shirts and even shorts.

Temperatures today are 0.5 Celsius (32.9 Fahrenheit), not much cooler than 4.4 Celsius (39.9 F) at BAS headquarters.

Antarctic ice expands — global warming at work?

Adelie penguins in Antarctica are photographed in this January 18, 2005 file photo. The pesticide DDT, banned decades ago in much of the world, still shows up in penguins in Antarctica, probably due to the chemical’s accumulation in melting glaciers, a sea bird expert said on May 9, 2008. REUTERS/Heidi Geisz/Virginia Institute of Marine Science/Handout (ANTARCTICA).Ice getting bigger hardly sounds like a sign of global warming but that’s apparently what is happening in the seas around Antarctica.

Leading climate scientists say that a tiny trend towards bigger ice in winter floating on the oceans around the frozen continent since the late 1970s — the maximum extent is around now, in September — is consistent with models of climate change that predict harsher winds and less warmer water at the surface.

It may even be that there’s more snow and rain falling onto the southern oceans because of climate change — that can raise the amount of fresh water on the surface and, hey presto, fresh water freezes at a higher temperature than salt water.