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Let me explain what I mean by terraforming. Let's say we want Antarctica to be like Scandinavia or Finland. People from all over the Earth would colonise it and build the "United States of Antarctica" or something similar. It would basically become a next-generation USA.

I know that a lot of ice will melt on the continent, and the ocean level will increase. This can be a serious problem for the rest of the planet, but let's say we (or aliens, for example) have the technology to "suck" this water and use it for some industrial purposes (that's irrelevant). I know, however, that changes in temperature may lead to some serious problems in our world. It may disrupt the temperatures around other places, et cetera.

Now for the question: Is it possible to change Antarctica to resemble Northern Europe (temperature) without harming the rest of the globe?

The best answer will contain:

  • Is it possible at all to "terraform" the frozen continent (see what I mean by terraforming)

  • how can we not harm our planet by doing so

  • HOW would that be possible? Exotic technologies of the far future:enabled !

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    $\begingroup$ Is it Anarctica, the land of anarc-ists, or is it Antarctica, the land of anti-bears? (And anyway, Antarctica was not always so cold. In fact it had a very pleasant climate until about 4 million years ago, when continental drift placed it over the south pole. It will eventually move away and warm up again. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 8 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ One problem is that a lot of the rock of Antarctica is below sea level. (Because of the weight of ice pressing it down.) So if you remove the ice, a lot of the continent is sea, even if you move the water elsewhere (Mars could use it) to keep current sea levels. Searching for "Antarctica without ice" will give you some nice maps. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jul 9 at 6:10
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    $\begingroup$ After reading answers, I have to mention that with high tech it is possivle, not much needed however and thus I'm lazy to describe how. It can be done in few ways, one of which is take the whole sunligth flow to the planet under a control, some umbrella like system, and ligth the poles. This way you may gain climate control and bend it in the way it required to achieve goal and compensate changes. City size domes also possible, will limit influence in there. So not impossible. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jul 9 at 6:10
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf With the weight of the ice gone, much of that land will rise above sea level again (except that sea level rise will be worse). $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Jul 9 at 8:26
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    $\begingroup$ @gerrit: Sure, it will rise eventually, but consider that ~12,000 years after the last Ice Age, the northern parts of North America and Europe are still rebounding from the weight of the glaciers: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-glacial_rebound $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jul 9 at 15:56

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My understanding is that quite alot of Antarctica isn't a proper continent at all. Much of it is floating ice. Were the ice to be removed, you'd get a somewhat smallish archipelago:

enter image description here

Remember, this isn't just the missing outline... that outline is embiggened (I used it, it's a word) in your mind through Mercator projection chicanery.

If this is still big enough for you (if weren't expecting a very large continent anyway), then we have climactic problems as well. It's pretty much fully within the Antarctic circle. We're talking about the inability to do much agriculturally (think something on par with northern Alaska). We're talking about months out of the year where you get to see the sun set briefly at midnight, and on the other side of the year get to have a few weeks of continuous nighttime dark skies (this might only be moderate at the outskirts, but in the interior... oof).

Assuming you don't magic away all the ice, potable water probably isn't a concern. Those glacier you kept up in the mountains will make acceptable rivers along which to site your cities. (Assuming, of course, you can decide what ice you get to keep, and which ice you get to toss.)

So, the real problem, the one you in fact were asking about explicitly in your question, is can you make it an acceptable temperature. And that's dicey. It is possible on Earth for latitude to be somewhat ignored, if ocean currents bless that land. This is why the UK can look as good as it is, while not revving up the motor and sailing their island south through France (which, knowing what I know of them, they might try just to get a good one over on the Frenchies, if they thought they could do it). Atlantic ocean currents typically blast it with un-latitudinally warm water.

It's difficult to imagine that happening at the South Pole though, where these kinds of currents tend to not be. But possibly with a highly advanced science, one could nudge them in a way that both warmed the antarctic and didn't completely pooch-screw the rest of the planet. For a time. Even if there was some magic formula that allowed you to do this, it's not going to be stable for geological periods of time. A few decades, maybe a century. So the magic is going to have to be on an on-going basis.

Someone else will have to answer whether that "magic" can be localized to Antarctica, or if it will have to be global... removing that much albedo from the planet may heat it up considerably, and we might need a way to cool it down in addition to the mojo that's sending warm ocean currents to McMurdo.

The poor penguins. Wtf. Reduced to zoo freezers. You're a cruel, cruel questioner, Mishima.

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    $\begingroup$ It is kinda difficult to decide if this "smallish archipelago" is big enough without any scale or reference. Could you add one? $\endgroup$
    – And
    Jul 9 at 7:38
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    $\begingroup$ That "smallish archipelago" is about the size of Europe. $\endgroup$ Jul 9 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ Much of it is not floating ice. Rather, it's ice on a bedrock that happens to be below sea level. Some of it will rebound considerably if the ice is rapidly receding, such that hundreds of years after the ice is gone, there will be a lot more land than a pure bedrock map today would suggest. It would still be a sizeable continent. But that's all neither here nor there; we can't make Antarctica habitable without making much larger areas of land elsewhere uninhabitable. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Jul 9 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ it's certainly substantially smaller than the Antarctica you see on maps today (especially if for some reason you're using Mercator, where it appears infinite, for something other than compass navigation), but it would still have a surface area larger than the Indonesian & Philippine archipelagos combined, making it far and away the largest archipelago on earth (if considered as a single archipelago rather than a continental landmass with a couple of distinct offshore archipelagos) $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Jul 9 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ Given enough time, at least hundreds of years, parts of Antarctica will rise from the ocean due to post-glacial rebound. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jul 9 at 19:08
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The short answer is no: if Antarctica could be habitable, it would be already.

  • For two months of the year there's virtually no sunlight across most of the continent, and severely reduced light for four months (less than 45° above the horizon) at even the lowest latitudes. Over 95% of Antarctica is beyond the southern latitude equivalent of the Tree Line, the latitude past which trees cannot grow due to lack of sun. This means no agriculture.

  • The encircling Southern Ocean blocks all heat transfer from warmer currents. Surface temperatures are below freezing year-round, so again no agriculture.

  • Antarctica is a desert, averaging less than 170mm of precipitation a year. No rain, no agriculture.

There is no solution to these factors that doesn't drastically change climates and biomes across the southern hemisphere at a minimum.

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    $\begingroup$ "No rain" is the real reason why it would not be like Northern Europe... (source, I live in Norway) $\endgroup$ Jul 9 at 9:18
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    $\begingroup$ Blocking the encircling ocean would probably be doable, and would make the place warm enough to casually live in (at the cost of cooling the rest of the planet, which might be helpful, and disrupting sea currents, which will probably be horrible). But yeah, even with above-zero temperatures, not a good place to live. Some rain would probably return once the circumpolar current is gone, but the lack of light is quite a problem. On the other hand, there would probably be loads of easily accessible resources (not exploited for thousands of years by humans, and being exposed through glaciers). $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Jul 9 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ It's not just the temperature and lack of sunlight that limits agriculture; it's the lack of arable soil. In general, any problem you can solve to make Antarctica more habitable is cheaper and easier to apply somewhere else. $\endgroup$ Jul 9 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ @jeffronicus Soil can be imported, but the reasons I listed are among the top four of why nobody would ever bother to. Number four would be the immense waste of effort because of one through three. $\endgroup$
    – rek
    Jul 9 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ WRT your first point, I call BS. The northern parts of North America and Europe lie at similar latitudes, have months of no sunlight, are further north than the tree line, yet are inhabited by humans, and have been so for thousands of years. If you can't do warm-climate agriculture, you live by fishing, hunting, & herding. See the lifestyles of the Inuit and Sami, for example. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jul 9 at 16:01
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Northern Europe indoors?

https://gpnmag.com/news/philips-hosts-led-lighting-event-in-finland/

finnish greenhouse

A nuclear power plant in Antarctica should be enough to warm a lot of greenhouses. You could add more nuclear plants if it got chilly. People would live inside.

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    $\begingroup$ You don't need nuclear power. Antarctica is a very windy (and partly sunny) continent, and the surrounding oceans have lots of wave power. Can use geothermal energy too. No need to use a dated technology for a futuristic project. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Jul 9 at 8:20
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    $\begingroup$ @gerrit: You say dated like there aren’t some great new designs for nuclear power plants, not to mention fusion! $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Jul 9 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ @gerrit The only large industrial nation on the planet that moved almost completely away from carbon-based power is France, and it did it in the 70s based on Nuclear. Nobody has successfully done it with renewables without relying on non-renewables to fix their grid, except regions with excess Hydropower (hydropower tech we have now caps out geographically, so doesn't scale). The storage problem for intermittent renewables (every renewable except hydropower) is real, and no large industrial nation scale solution has been found and proven to work. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Jul 9 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerrit You say that yu doubt that fusion will ever be economical. I say what difference does that make? People need energy to survive, and renewable energy will not be sufficient in many locations, so the alternatives are fossil fuels or nuclear. So fusion plants can be operated by governments at a financial loss if it is necssary to prevent the collapse of civilization, just like governmentswaste a lot of money and never get it back fighting wars for much less important reasons.. $\endgroup$ Jul 9 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ In this sense, Antarctica is already habitable today, in that there has been a permanent, year-round human presence on the continent for decades. They do of course rely on regular shipments of supplies from elsewhere, but it wouldn't be much of a stretch to expand the local food production to the level of self-sufficiency using hydroponics and the like. $\endgroup$ Jul 9 at 19:14
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Let me explain what i mean by terraforming. Let's say we want Antarctica to be like Scandinavia or Finland.

There are much more accessible parts of the planet that are currently hardly populated (or unpopulated) that would be easier to transform. The interior of Greenland. Much of Northern Canada and Northern Russia. Antarctica would be a much more difficult to operate in and start from. For that matter the population density in large tracts of Australia and the US are equally empty and, again, more practical targets.

Changing any of these regions is essentially going to wreck the entire globe's climate. Even a change to make Antarctica more like Finland would be devastating.

Long, long, long before you try any of those people will starting living in larger and more densely populated highrise and subsurface population centers - higher and deeper.

People from all over the Earth would colonise it and build "United states of Antarctica"or something similar.It would basically become a next generation USA.

Unless you happen to have a magic formula for world peace and to make humans actually get along with each other and stop being greedy that's not going to happen. Instead countries and corporations will compete for access to the regions resources (as they're now going to be unlocked and more easily exploited. Unless the UN gets a huge army, the UN will be what it usually is in these contexts - a referee who can't stop the players arguing but can tell them off later.

I know that a lot of ice will melt on the continent,and ocean level will increase. This can be a serious problem for the rest of the planet,but let's say we (or aliens,pour example) have technology to "Suck" this water and use it for some industrial purposes(That's irrelevant).

Extremely relevant. It's a vast quantity of water and it will end up where ? Even a small fraction of that water is devastating to the climate (and is one of the important factors in global warming). You'd be talking about basically all of it (maybe half left as permafrost at best) which is way, way, way beyond global warming. So it's essential you have a place to put this water where it won't do harm.

I know,however,that changes in temperature may lead to some serious problems on our world. It may distrupt the temperatures around other places,et cetera.

Wipe of all sea life, make the entire rest of the globe uninhabitable, wipe out all arable crops (and the places to grow them) and possibly make the planet as hot as Venus by a runaway greenhouse effect.

Now for the question:Is it possible to change Antarctica to resemble Northern Europe (Temperature) without harming the rest of the globe?

No.

If you want to live in Antarctica (why when so many better places exist ?), then you build enclosed structures with closed environments. These would be orders of magnitude easier to build (although still a major task) and even more magnitudes easier to do safely, without affecting anywhere else (or more precisely with minimal effects to the climate). Underground is an option.

Best answer will contain:

Just so you understand how SE work : members decide what a best answer is, not the OP by voting on their views. They can use any criteria they want to judge what they consider "best".

HOW would that be possible? Exotic technologies of the far future:enabled

As I say it's not practical to do it the way you want. It's far simpler (in some reasonable future) to be able to build and maintain large surface or underground structures in the Antarctic which have e.g. geothermal heat sources for energy and grow their own food.

The trickiest part would be stopping the heat from such settlements from altering the environment locally (again to global detriment). This would require some form of heat transfer mechanism that moved that heat to were it would do less harm. Not impossible, but well beyond anything I can imagine. It's way beyond me to say if the geothermal option is truly viable (it's probably plausible at the story level anyway).

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, the OP can choose the best answer via the vaunted Green Checkmark. $\endgroup$
    – The Daleks
    Jul 10 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks The OP can accept an answer by doing that. The best answer (or most up-voted might be a better way to describe it) is what the community votes up the most. The idea is that while an OP may prefer on answer for their own particular needs, the questions and answers are supposed (ideally) to be useful to the wider community, hence "accepted" is not the same as "best". There's even a badge (populist for having the most up-voted answer that's twice the score of the accepted answer. $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Jul 10 at 18:27
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You've written:

let's say we (or aliens, for example) have the technology to "suck" this water and use it for some industrial purposes

If you're assuming we have the power to remove that much water, then other technologies might be possible too. In particular, we could build some orbital mirrors, and reflect some sunlight down onto Antarctica. The effort needed to launch all those mirrors into space would be considerable (even if we used a very lightweight tinfoil-like mirror with just some webbing to hold it in place). But the effort for this might be less than the effort required to get rid of all the meltwater it would produce.

Adding sunlight in this way would increase global warming, so we'd probably want to subtract some sunlight from equatorial regions to balance it out. If we decrease the temperature over the Sahara Desert, it might generate rainfall and let us terraform the desert too.

There's a bit more on this topic in Can satellites decrease global warming?.

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Is it possible to change Antarctica to resemble Northern Europe (temperature) without harming the rest of the globe?

You mentioned the far future. How much time do you have?

Scientists believe that in 250 million years, continental drift may lead to a continental arrangement as such:

future continents
Source: Mattias Green, Hannah Sophia Davies, Joao C. Duarte: What planet Earth might look like when the next supercontinent forms – four scenarios? November 2018, The Conversation

As you can see, parts of Antarctica are sandwiched between India/China, Australia, and South America. Although I'm not aware of any climate model simulations for such a continental arrangement, if atmospheric circulation resembles the one today, Antarctica would have a tropical to subtropical climate, possibly with large parts dominated by deserts, comparable to Australia today. Such continental drift doesn't happen overnight. As stated, this is a forecast for 250 million years into the future. In the transition from a polar icecap climate to a (sub)tropical climate, somewhere along the way in the next tens to hundreds of millions of years, the climate of Antarctica will probably resemble the climate that Northern Europe has today.

Whoever lives on Earth by then, if anyone, may well have exotic technology. They probably won't be able to stop continental drift. I imagine the lake or inland sea between Australia, North America, and South America may be a popular tropical tourist destination. Will you use your exotic technology to send a post card back to the 21st century?

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  • $\begingroup$ My story would begin in the 2070's and by 2300 or 2400 Antarctica would be fully terraformed.But i read all the nswers and it seems that it's not realistic at all.Well,it was not a very importatnt plot point anyway,one of many.I think i will search foe a diffrent idea. $\endgroup$
    – Mishima
    Jul 10 at 8:20
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No. In theory you certainly could do it but only at the cost of decimating the worlds current population centers and continental ecologies.

The South polar region was habitable in the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras albeit continental drift had not yet split it up into the worlds current land masses. Point is at least the fringe (coastal regions) of present antarctic would support diverse forests, mainly conifers and ferns as well and a rich under story of other plants at least roughly similar to the regions you've specified. Albeit there would still be long cold dark winters and the inner part of the continent might have more of a tundra like environment.

The issue is that this period was much, much warmer than present day Earth. So if your going to 'warm up' Antarctica (and presumably Greenland and northern Canada etc) you have to be prepared to radically alter the climate on the rest of the Earths continents which will all be much warmer. Damaging the ecologies of each it turn - and that includes all of Earths current agricultural lands.

Tell you what, lets do absolutely nothing about global warming and find out. Human civilization be dammed, its an interesting if long term experiment.

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    $\begingroup$ There wouldn't be much of an "inner part of the continent" left after you remove the ice. Sea level rise would cause most of it to be flooded. Also, for at least a million years after removing the ice, the area would be the most earth quake prone region on earth. We're talking 10+ on the Richter scale, every few decades with 6+ annually. $\endgroup$
    – jwdonahue
    Jul 9 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ That would have to be considered part of the normal' transition process to habitable environment. Since the quakes (thanks for bringing them up BTW) would be related to the stresses released as the ice sheets melt and not any underlying , ongoing tectonic processes they should die down over time as a new equilibrium point is reached. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Jul 10 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, and eventually, some of the flooded areas would probably rebound to dry land, since the weight of the water that remains won't be nearly as great as the weight of the ice. A good bit of which piles up at the equator for various reasons. $\endgroup$
    – jwdonahue
    Jul 10 at 2:57
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Yeah. Just move it.

Maybe to about the middle of the Indian Ocean as a kind of sister continent to Australia.

That solves the ice problem.

how can we not harm our planet by doing so

This planet is pretty much indestructible. Greenland used to be green and without nearly as much ice on its surface. We'd just be balancing this out with a mirror change in the Southern hemisphere.

Bear in mind that Antarctica moved to get to where it is, and has changed an awful lot over time.

HOW would that be possible? Exotic technologies of the far future:enabled !

Underground volcanic activity and plate tectonics. The mid-Atlantic rift that separated Pangaea was pretty drastic, and was propelled by irresistible volcanic activity. Simply learn how to energize and agitate the appropriate underground magma bubbles, and the upper mantle and crust will be loosey-goosey enough to make the shift happen.

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It is theoretically possible to build a totally self enclosed totally recycled habitat anywhere, such as in a moon base or an artificial space habitat.

So possibly such enclosed habitats will be built in the future, even on Earth, where they might be used to creat artifical ecospheres for humans to live in, and thus reduce human interaction with the natural ecosystem of Earth, and reduce human damage to the natural ecosystem of Earth.

And if people can build such self enclosed habitats and ecosystems anywhere in space or anywhere on Earth, they could build them in Antarctica also.

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Why do you want to warm up Antartica to make it habitable? It depends of the exact motive of your population to live in Antarctica, but if it is just about pilgrims having nowhere else to settle down, then you don't absolutely need to warm up Antarctica.

As another answer says, you can just use powerful energy plants (nuclear or other energy sources) to create habitations where the temperature is acceptable. When people go outside houses, they just have to wear warm clothes. This would be similar to the Arab Emirates where people leave in climatized buildings, and go only part of the time outside where the sun is too powerful and temperatures are too high.

Now, the question is what do you live with in such a situation: Your people could have an economy based on the followings:

  • Extended fisheries and algae farming plants as a substitute to conventionnal farming
  • Touristic economy, as Antarctica is a beautiful place
  • Services economy, or even industrial economy: don't forget that most of the year, people commute between their house, subway and their place of work without being outside: in Antarctica, this would mean people don't suffer from the low temperature
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  • $\begingroup$ @totalMongoot i will give some background:An extraterrestrial AI would travel across the galaxy and terraform planets based on their"potential".A hot planet near a star would be "xenoformed"to support high temperature life(non-carbon)a cold planet or moon far away would be suitable for low temp (Silicon etc.)and of course those in the habitable zone would be very simmilar to Earth.There are many plot points: a religion that is created after discovering alien artifacts,and a space race between nations....one of the smaller plot points would be terraformed Antarctica. $\endgroup$
    – Mishima
    Jul 10 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ @totalMangoot so the frozen continent wouls be seen by the AI as a unhabited planet...but i wanted to do it without any catastrophes (the AI is not the "bad guy" of the story) $\endgroup$
    – Mishima
    Jul 10 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Mishima Ok, then I think I gave a correct solution: the AI will have to live in Antarctica withtout terraforming it, but only by transforming it into something on which the AI can live $\endgroup$ Jul 10 at 17:44

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