Antarctica represents a great unknown in terms of near-term climate policies that would slow warming there. Aside from the global impact of decreasing methane emissions, are there any regional measures that might benefit the Antarctica climate system? Many scientists think not – the strength of the Antarctica gyre, and its atmospheric equivalent to the Arctic front zone, is simply too strong to allow much ingress of pollutants originating elsewhere. Emissions from sources within and around the continent, even the burgeoning cruise tourism industry, are assumed too small to have much significance.
At the same time, there are some reports of black carbon deposits in the region. Where might these originate, and are they at all similar in magnitude to deposits on Greenland or Arctic sea ice? Is the Antarctic Peninsula – the single place on earth with the most rapid rise in temperature – different in this regard, given its relative nearness to Patagonia, with its frequent forest fires; and the grassland fires of the pampas region? What research exists on this issue – including in Spanish and Russian, as well as by other major research stations and the 48 Antarctic Treaty nations with some scientific presence in the region?
As a first step in considering the addition of an Antarctic program, ICCI hopes to commission a study of existing work on SLCPs and their possible impact on the Continent, to be released in the first half of 2013 and shared at the next Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Brussels in May 2013.