Abandoned penguin colonies may help refine Antarctic climate studies

ersist, may cause the penguins to abandon those colonies completely.

Scientists are debating whether the existence of the huge icebergs is due to a general warming of the climate in Antarctica or simply part of some other natural process in which pieces of ice break away--or "calve"--from the Ross and other ice shelves in the same way that human fingernails break off when they reach a certain length.

But Emslie noted, paradoxically, even if the calving is due to warming, because the icebergs are causing a concentration of sea ice that could eventually cause an abandonment of penguin colonies, scientists in the future could interpret the abandonment as evidence of a cooling trend.

"I think it's a good lesson for us," he said. "Although you might think this ecosystem is relatively simple, it's apparent that it's a lot more complex than it first appears."


Contact: Peter West
National Science Foundation

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