It was such fun to do this webinar for school kids from different ages and I was truly astonished what well-considered and pertinent questions I was asked. Well done, all of you!
There was one question I couldn’t answer at the time, but I looked it up after the webinar:
The amount of snow falling on Antarctica has been estimated to be around 2000 Gigatons per year. This is enough to cover the whole of Antarctica in 14 cm of water if it melted (or, as the estimate comes from Belgium, it would cover that country in 66 m of water).
The centre of Antarctica is relatively dry and most of the snow falls on the margins of the continent, in particular in on the Antarctic Peninsula and the West Antarctic Ice Shelf. To put it into a Southwest UK context, in terms of water, the western Antarctic Peninsula receives about as much as Dartmoor (around 2000 – 2500 mm).
So, what is a Gigaton? ‘Giga’ is the prefix for one billion (1 000 000 000 or 109). So, we are talking about 2 x 1012 tons or 2 x 1015 kg (1 000 000 000 000 000 kg).
You might imagine their work to be a breeze, more of a holiday really, sailing tropical seas in great weather… and surely, the sun shines and watching dolphins riding the bow waves amidst bioluminescent plankton at midnight is magical and an experience nobody will ever forget.