Human technology

Every human tourist melts 83 tonnes of snow in Antarctica, study finds

The cost of human tourism on pristine ecosystems is heavy, especially when hit by the adverse effects of climate change – a phenomenon essentially of human origin. Now, a first-of-its-kind study published in Nature Communications has highlighted the amount of snowmelt caused by every human tourist who sets foot in Antarctica..


Tourists melt snow in Antarctica

As the distant mainland becomes more accessible, tourists flock to see the wonders of this icy haven by boat and plane. According to, the number of tourists reached 74,000 in 2019-2020.

According to the new study, each human tourist in Antarctica melts 83 tons of snow. To this end, they “quantified black carbon levels in snow near human settlements”. Collecting samples from 28 locations across a 2,000 kilometer stretch of Antarctica where most humans travel, they analyzed “the amount and type of light-absorbing particles in the snow samples.”

a-76 antarctic iceberg

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Essentially, the researchers evaluated how soot released by humans can affect the properties of Antarctic snow in areas with high footfall.

The effects of human emissions have been observed deep near human settlements that have lower levels of “albedo” – a property that melts snow faster. According to the results of the study, human settlements in the Arctic melt snow by 23 mm each summer. Every visitor to Antarctica between 2016 and 2020 melted around 83 tonnes of snow, largely due to emissions from cruise ships.

Penguins, Antarctic ice caps, global warming, climate change, melting ice caps, rising seal levels, tech news, science news
A pair of Adelie penguins are pictured at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica. (Image: Reuters)

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If the trajectory continues, Antarctica could suffer the same fate as the rest of the Earth – with compromised ecosystems and lasting environmental impact.

What do you think of the human footprint on Antarctic ice? Let us know in the comments below. For more in the world of Technology and Sciencekeep reading

The references

Harris, M. (2022, February 23). Each Antarctic tourist actually melts 83 tonnes of snow. Phys.Org.