Variants in the sea level They are completely natural. However, if we add a melting of glaciers and polar caps due to the climate change, the situation can become very serious. It is important to anticipate these types of events through science. And that is precisely what one of the groups of Spanish scientists moved to the Antarctic These last months.
Although there have been researchers dedicated to an endless number of different tasks, this has been achieved by the responsible from Schooner project. Members of the University of Granada (UGR), the Andalusian Institute of Earth Sciences (CSIC), the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain, the Autonomous University of Madrid, the universities of Frankfurt and Lisbon, from the Institute of Geophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC). Its objective is to analyze a series of parameters related to the electrical activity of the earth’s mantle. In this way, they will be able to establish different scenarios that would be presented to us due to climate change, so that we are ready to face it.
Gradually, the researchers responsible for the various projects that took part in this expedition they come back to their laboratories. Now is the time to analyze the data. With the Goleta project, they will surely provide us with very interesting information to deal with what climate change brings to us. But in the meantime, let’s see what your role was in this important mission.
Knowing Antarctica to anticipate climate change on the whole planet
The knowledge of geodynamic evolution and the Antarctic behavior and the seas that surround it are key to understanding global change. And also the processes that direct future climate and sea level rise.
For this reason, the scientists of the Goleta project have devoted themselves to the study of what is called electrical anisotropy in the asthenospheric mantle. Electrical anisotropy is the variation of an electrical property depending on the direction in which it is measured. And the asthenosphere is the upper part of the Earth’s mantle, just below the lithosphere. Therefore, these scientists check whether there is a preferred direction of electrical conductivity at this point in the depths of the Earth.
This, as explained at hypertextual the principal researcher of the project, Lourdes González Castilloserves to relate this property to the processes of isostatic adjustment (sinking or lifting of the rigid layer of the earth on the asthenosphere) associated with the phases of ice and thaw. “These processes of variation in the thickness of the ice sheet are responsible for sea level variations on a global scale.”
It is well known that ice melting and sea level rise are linked to climate change. And we know as well how these effects of global warming can affect the planet. This is why these data are so important that they cannot help predict, but they can help prevent. “Predicting the future of climate change is very complicated because it depends both on human behavior and on the dynamics of the earth itself,” explains González Castillo.
These two phenomena are difficult to control. On the one hand, human behavior depends both on the individuality of people and on the measures taken in each of the countries that make up the planet. But also the earth’s dynamics are difficult to control. “Earth dynamics, in addition to being uncontrollable, are unpredictable in most cases.”
Solutions in the form of a climate model
All of this does not mean that we should sit idly by and wait for the sequel. yes they can define different scenarios and prepare measures for those considered most likely. “What we scientists can do, and we are trying in our project, is to establish models that define different scenarios for this climate change”, explains the expeditionary. “This would help determine the action steps to be taken in the face of climate change at the political and social level.”
Here, the Goleta project takes on great importance. And it is that, until recently, the scenarios associated with variations in sea level were established on the basis of geodetic, gravity and seismic data. That is to say, the structure of the Earth, its chemical composition and the activity generated by the tensions between the lithospheric plates were analyzed. To this, González Castillo and his team added magnetotelluric data, which constitute “an innovative contribution that will give greater coherence to these models”.
Nothing to do with electrical installations
When we talk about electricity on Earth, a light bulb that lights up in Antarctica may come to mind. But when we talk about electricity, we’re not talking about Electrical installation, but to the electrical conductivity itself which occurs beneath the surface of the earth. Even so, there is a small relationship, as these facilities can affect the measurements scientists take. “Power lines affect magnetotelluric measurements because dirty the data we store (we measure the natural electric and magnetic fields)”, specifies the researcher. “However, they do not condition the electrical structure of the Earth.”
For this and other reasons, electricity in Antarctica is limited to bases, where fuel-powered generators. Moreover, we use renewable energies. “All power generation systems are highly controlled to meet the Antarctic Treaty’s environmental commitment.” The truth is that it would make little sense to go there to provide science that helps fight climate change, but at the same time use forms of energy that harm the environment. This is why this treaty is so important that the expeditionaries follow it to the letter.
An expedition to Antarctica marked by COVID-19
During 35 yearsdozens of Spanish scientists have visited the two bases that our country has in Antarctica every year.
However, the last few years have been marked by the same thing that has marked us all over the world. Just when the explosion Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Spanish scientists were in the middle of an expedition. The world was thrown into chaos as they stood on the other end. They were able to return, but had to finish their projects quickly. Otherwise, once the borders are closed, the return would be more complicated. Coming home was an odyssey, after they were forbidden to get off the Ship of the Hesperides upon his arrival in Argentina. Fortunately, after several days of waiting, they were finally able to catch a plane to return home.
A year later, in January 2021, the pandemic was running its course, although knowing her had given us some respite. It was decided to continue the expedition that year, taking the appropriate measures. However, they detected 35 cases of coronavirus on the ship departed for Antarctica, forcing the expedition to be Be ready.
And this 2022, with some kind of new normal just released, a new attempt has been made. Also with the presence of the virus, but much less robust. Lourdes González Castillo spoke to us in particular about the case of his colleagues from the Goleta project. “In our case, four researchers were going to participate, two of whom tested positive before leaving,” he recalls. “We were able to activate the participation of a substitute and in the end we were only three people: Graham Hillfrom the Institute of Geophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and Asier Madarieta Churruca and I, from the University of Granada”.
They managed to avoid the coronavirus. However, he continued to put up obstacles after she and Graham returned home and Asier remained on Deception Island, where they conducted their experiments. “Initially, Asier had to join another project to collaborate with them. In addition, I had to recover the long-lived material (deep measures) that we had installed in the Antarctic Peninsula and the rest of the South Shetland Islands“, tells us the scientist. “As a result of a COVID outbreak on the Hesperides in the phase following ours, all activities have been canceled and the ship will only return to recover personnel and close bases.”
Faced with this new turn of events, Asier continued to increase the metering points in Deception. “So Graham and I have been in Antarctica for about a month while Asier will be accumulating a little over two months.”
Therefore, despite the coronavirus, work on the Goleta project in Antarctica is coming to an end. For the scientist interviewed in this way, everything went well thanks to the fraternity forged between scientists. And also for the help of the staff of the Sarmiento de Gamboa and Hespérides ships, the Juan Carlos I base and the army. Now is the time to analyze the data they have collected over the past few months. We still don’t know what they will bring us. But what is clear is that they can be very useful in sharpening the weapons that will allow us to fight climate change. It doesn’t seem like the data they got on Deception Island lives up to its name.