By 2050, about a quarter of the estimated 300,000—800,000 meteorites in Antarctica will be lost due to glacial melt. By end of the century, researchers anticipate that number could rise approaching a loss of meteorites closer to three-quarters of the meteorites on the continent under a high-warming scenario. Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, Harry Zekollari co-led the study while working under Professor Daniel Farinotti in the Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology at the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at ETH Zurich.

Meteorites are fragments from space that provide unique information about our solar system. Antarctica is the most prolific place to find meteorites, and to date, about 60 percent of all meteorites ever found on Earth have been collected from the surface of the Antarctic ice sheet. As atmospheric temperatures increase, so does the surface temperature of the ice, intensifying the loss. “Even when temperatures of the ice are well below zero, the dark meteorites warm-up so much in the sun that they can melt the ice directly beneath the meteorite. Through this process, the warm meteorite creates a local depression in the ice and over time fully disappears under the surface,” says Tollenaar.

Scientists conclude that in the long-term, the only way to preserve most of the remaining unrecovered Antarctic meteorites is to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


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