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Author: Mark Brandon

Heading for the global warming front line

Updated Thursday, 1st March 2007

Mark Brandon, Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences, prepares to set off on a two month research trip to Antarctica.

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Hi, my name is Mark Brandon and I am a Senior Lecturer in the Earth Sciences department at the OU. As well as contributing to teaching in the university I am an active research scientist and I study the frozen ocean surrounding Antarctica. This subject is literally a 'hot topic' and over the past decade I have found myself working in a region that has shown some the highest atmospheric temperature rises on the planet. Whenever you hear about climate change they always refer to the global mean surface temperature (GMST) increasing about  0.6-1.0°C. But this is a mean increase across the whole of our planet - it hides huge regional temperature changes (something my colleague Dr Stephen Peake pointed out last year). On the Antarctic Peninsula for example, the air temperatures are almost 3°C higher than in the late 1950's, and some of the best scientists in the business have directly linked these higher atmospheric temperatures to the collapse of floating ice shelves in this part of Antarctica.

There is no debate here - human induced climate change is happening and you can see Antarctica changing literally in front of your eyes.

Over the next few weeks I will be writing this blog about a research trip I am just starting in with a small team of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey and the University of East Anglia to study the effect of the ocean on the vulnerable ice shelves at the southern end of the west Antarctic Peninsula. We are sailing on the RRS James Clark Ross, and during my journey I hope to tell you a bit about the science, the history, the wildlife and hopefully why I think its important enough to leave my family for two months!

Until the next entry,

Dr Mark Brandon




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