Climate change is limiting our knowledge of the solar system


A team of Belgian researchers from the VUB and ULB have found that global warming is causing meteorites to disappear, and with them our extraterrestrial knowledge.

Antarctica is home to many large concentrations of meteorites - unique samples of extraterrestrial bodies - on its surface. The icy continent therefore contains a wealth of information about our solar system, enabling us to understand the appearance of life on Earth or the formation of the Moon, for example.

A study by scientists from the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in collaboration with ETH Zurich and WSL Birmensdorf, has indicated that global warming is responsible for the rapid disappearance of meteorites, a loss with far-reaching consequences for our understanding and knowledge of extraterrestrial matters.

Using artificial intelligence to combine satellite observations of the continent with climate projections, the scientists calculated that for every tenth of a degree increase in global air temperature, 5,100 to 12,200 meteorites disappear from the surface of the ice cap. Around a quarter of all meteorites will have disappeared by 2050, and this figure could rise to three-quarters by the end of the century.

According to Harry Zekollari, who works at the Glaciology Laboratory (GLACIOL) of the ULB Faculty of Science and the VUB Department of Water and Climate, the findings of this study call for a major international effort, "We need to intensify and coordinate the recovery of Antarctic meteorites before they are lost to climate change. Like collecting ice cores from disappearing glaciers or sampling coral reefs before they bleach, our study has identified meteorite loss as an unexpected impact of climate change that needs to be addressed."

The study was published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.