Glossary

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adaptation

A characteristic or feature of a plant or animal that helps it survive, adaptations evolve over long time periods e.g. birds that become flightless

anchor ice

Ice that forms on the sea floor

Antarctic Circumpolar Current

An ocean current that flows clockwise from west to east around Antarctica

anthropogenic

Caused by people e.g. ocean acidification is caused by people increasing carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolutions

atmosphere

The air around us

atom

The smallest unit that anything can be easily broken down into, containing protons, neutrons and electrons

Aurora

Charged particles colliding creating bright lights in the atmosphere

bacteria

An organism made up of one cell

bergy bits

Small broken pieces of iceberg

biodiversity

The range or variety of living things in a particular area

biologist

A person who studies living things

biosphere

The part of the Earth system to do with all living things

brackish

Slightly salty

brine

As salt is squeezed out of freezing sea water a slushy mixture known as brine is formed (a salty liquid mixture)

calving

When icebergs break away from ice shelves

carbon

A natural chemical element found in all living, or once living things

carbon-13

A natural form of carbon found more in sea ice algae than in open ocean algae

carbon cycle

Just as the "water cycle" describes the transfer of water molecules between rivers, oceans, land and the atmosphere, the "carbon cycle" refers to the flow of carbon through different parts of the Earth system – including the air and the bodies of plants and animals

carbon dioxide

When a carbon atom joins with two oxygen atoms, a lot of carbon dioxide comes from burning things containing carbon

chemical compounds

Molecules made up of different types of atoms bonded together

climate

The average weather over many years

climate change

Rapid change in climate due to human activity (mainly burning fossil fuels) increasing heat trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere

climate model

A computer model used to predict future climate change and the impacts of these changes

community

All the living things in a particular area

condensation

The process of changing water from a gas to a liquid is called condensation

continent

One of the seven large areas of land on earth

depot

A place where food, fuel and equipment is stored so a travelling party can re-supply and continue their journey

ecosystem

This is all the living (e.g. animals, plants) and non-living (e.g. light, water) things within a particular area

endemic

A native species found nowhere else in the world

enzyme

A protein produced naturally by living things to speed up a process such as digestion

evaporation

The process of changing water from a liquid to a gas is called evaporation

fast ice

Sea ice that is held in place year after year

food web

This shows what eats what in a community

fossil

When a plant or animal or parts of a plant or animal are preserved in rocks

frazil

The first ice crystals that form on the sea's surface when the water temperature dips below 1.8 degrees Celsius, are known as frazil

fungi

Not a plant or an animal but a group of living things that feed off plants, animals or decaying matter

Geographic South Pole

The southern most point on Earth, the Earth spins around the North and South Pole

geologist

A person who studies land formation and rock types

geomagnetic

Related to the magnetic field of Earth

glacier

A river of ice

glacial recession

When a glacier shrinks as melting exceeds the amount of snow that accumulates

global cooling

When the average temperature on earth naturally falls

global warming

When the average temperature on earth naturally rises

greenhouse effect

The natural way the earth is warmed 33 degrees by its atmosphere

greenhouse gases

Gases which trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere

Gulf Stream

A powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida

humidity

Amount of moisture in the air described as a percentage

hydrosphere

All the waters on the Earth's surface, such as lakes and seas

hypothesis

An explanation of why things happen that can be tested by scientists

Ice Age

A period when the earth's climate is colder

ice sheet

A large area of ice formed when glaciers join together

ice shelf

A large area of floating ice, formed when glaciers flow out to sea

iceberg

Part of a glacier or ice shelf that has broken off and floated away

Industrial Revolution

A period when the invention of machines led to a rapid increase in industry in Britain in the late 1700s

Ionosphere

Outer layer of the Earth's atmosphere

International Geophysical Year

A period of over a year where scientists worked together on important scientific projects in Antarctica

katabatic winds

When cold air descends from high mountains down into lower areas because the cold air is denser (heavier)

lithosphere

The solid rocky layer covering the surface of the Earth including the crust and upper mantle

Magnetic South Pole

Where a compass points to south, which changes slightly over time due to changes in the Earth's magnetic field

mass

The quantity of matter contained in an object

matter

Anything that takes up space and has mass - everything around us

McMurdo Iceshelf

The iceshelf that fills McMurdo Sound, Antarctica

McMurdo Sound

The area of the Ross Sea between Ross Island and the TransAntarctic Mountains

meteorologist

A person who studies the atmosphere and especially the weather

meteorological

To do with the atmosphere, especially weather

methane

A greenhouse gas CH4 produced from the breakdown of once living things

microorganism

an organism too small to see with the naked eye

molecule

A group of atoms bonded together

nitrous oxide

Sometimes called laughing gas, a greenhouse gas produced by bacteria and by people through agriculture

ocean acidification

The lowering of the pH of the oceans due to their absorbtion of carbon dioxide

ocean current

Large flows of water in the oceans

organism

A living thing

ozone

A gas made up of three oxygen atoms which is naturally present in the upper atmosphere, it helps protect Earth from harmful UV radiation

particles

A very small amount of something, or the smallest possible part of something

pH

A measure of how acidic (or alkaline) a substance is

photosynthesis

The process that plants carry out to harness the sun's energy and carbon dioxide to make sugars for food

Polar Plateau

The level surface of the ice sheet at the center of which the South Pole is located. The height of the plateau varies between 2,500 and 3,000 m. 

polynya

An area of open water surrounded by sea ice

prefabricated hut

A hut that fits together as a kitset

pressure

The force of something upon a surface eg air pressure is the force or weight of air above a particular point on the Earth's surface

pressure ridge

A fold or buckle in ice, often where ice collides with land

radiation

Energy that comes from a source and travels through some material or space. Light, heat and sound are forms of radiation

regulator

A piece of equipment between a diver's airtank and mouthpiece that controls the airflow to the diver

Ross Ice Shelf

The huge Antarctic ice shelf directly south of New Zealand

Ross Island

The island in Antarctica formed by Mt Erebus, also the location of Scott Base

Ross Sea

Part of the Pacific Ocean that juts into Antarctica and ends in the Ross Ice Shelf

salinity

The amount of salt in sea water

sea ice

Sea ice is formed on the ocean surface when the water temperature falls to –2 degrees Celsius. It floats because it is less dense than sea water

seismic activity

Movement caused by earthquakes

SIMCO

Sea Ice Microbial Community, a group of microorganisms that live in or on the underside of sea ice

solar activity

activity on the sun's surface such as flares and sunspots

sunspots

darker, cooler areas on the sun's surface

supercool

The term scientists use to describe a liquid that is below its freezing point but remains a liquid

Trans-Antarctica

Across Antarctica

transect

A line made through an area to be studied along which samples are taken

weather

Day to day changes in the atmosphere