Scientists find snowmelt, new species in Antarctica

It’s been a bad news-good news kind of week for Antarctica. Scientists from NASA and the University of Colorado revealed that a California-sized expanse of snow melted there during a warm spell in 2005, farther inland and at higher elevations than expected. The team was cautious about drawing climate-y conclusions, but said the find was a big deal because melted snow can act as a lubricant, helping nearby ice slide into the sea. “Increases in snowmelt, such as this … definitely could have an impact on larger scale melting of Antarctica’s ice sheets if they were severe or sustained over time,” said Konrad Steffen of the University of Colorado. “Large regions are showing the first signs of warming.” Another research team reported in Nature that they’d found more than 700 new marine species around the continent during three expeditions between 2002 and 2005. The finds included 81 worm species and 17 sponge species in an area that, said one scientist, “was once thought to be a featureless abyss.”