Climate change threatens Antarctic meteorites | Science & Technology

Using artificial intelligence, satellite observations, and climate model projections, a team of researchers from Switzerland and Belgium calculate that for every tenth of a degree of increase in global air temperature, an average of nearly 9,000 meteorites disappear from the surface of the ice sheet. This loss has major implications, as meteorites are unique samples of extraterrestrial bodies that provide insights into the origin of life on Earth and the formation of the Moon.

Disappearing at an alarming rate

By 2050, about a quarter of the estimated of 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. Zekollari and co-lead Veronica Tollenaar, Université Libre de Bruxelles, reveal in the study that ongoing warming results in the loss of about 5,000 meteorites a year, outpacing the collection efforts of Antarctic meteorites by a factor five.

Meteorites — time capsules of the universe

Zekollari, now an Associate Professor of Glaciology at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, calls for a major international effort to preserve the scientific value of meteorites, “We need to accelerate and intensify efforts to recover Antarctic meteorites. The loss of Antarctic meteorites is much like the loss of data that scientists glean from ice cores collected from vanishing glaciers — once they disappear, so do some of the secrets of the universe.”

Meteorites are fragments from space that provide unique information about our solar system. Antarctica is the most prolific place to find meteorites, and to…

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