Again, the Antarctic sea ice reached record lows. If this is “the beginning of the end,” scientists are unsure.

For the second time in two years, Antarctic sea ice has reached record low levels. Some scientists are concerned that these sudden declines are a sign that the climate crisis may now be more obviously affecting this huge, complicated, and remote region.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, or NSIDC, the sea ice that surrounds Antarctica shrank to just 737,000 square miles (1.91 million square kilometers) on February 13—below the previous record of 741,000 square miles (1.92 million square kilometers) established on February 25 of last year.

Sea ice could still lose more mass, and it might take longer than a week until it reaches its minimum extent for the southern summer.

Since 1978, when satellite monitoring of sea ice began, the past two years are the only ones in which its extent has fallen below 2 million square kilometers.

According to Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, it’s “not just ‘almost a record low. That is trending quite steeply downward.

National Snow and Ice Data Center’s 2004 Antarctic Ice Record Low Melt
It is more difficult to predict how the Antarctic continent and its surrounding waters will react to climate change because, unlike the Arctic, where the pace of sea ice loss has followed a fairly continuous downward trajectory as climate change has accelerated.

Ad Suggestions
The two poles are significantly dissimilar from one another. Antarctica’s sea ice can expand without being confined by land, in contrast to the Arctic, which is an ocean surrounded by landmass. With higher winter highs and steeper summer lows, Antarctic ice tends to be thinner than Arctic ice.

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is also referred to as the “Doomsday Glacier” because of the enormous threat that rising sea levels from its melting presents.
Scientists claim that the infamous Doomsday Glacier is in peril after discovering unexpected formations beneath the ice shelf.
Until recently, the region was acting radically differently than what those climate models anticipated, despite the fact that they forecast losses in Antarctic sea ice that were comparable to those in the Arctic.

In 2014, when it reached a record high of 7.76 million square miles, the extent of winter sea ice appeared to confirm the hypothesis that the Antarctic may be comparatively shielded from global warming.

But, something altered in 2016. Researchers saw a sharp declining trend.

Some initially attributed it to the regular variability of this enormously complex continent’s numerous, interconnected climatic systems. But after two consecutive years with record-low sea ice, scientists are worried.

“The question is, has Antarctica been affected by climate change? Is this signaling the end of the world? In the summer of the upcoming years, will the sea ice permanently vanish? The Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany’s Christian Haas is in charge of the Sea Ice Physics Research Section, according to CNN.

03 Antarctic Ice Melt Record Low Climate International
Center for National Snow and Ice Data
Sea ice may be so low due to a number of variables, such as winds, ocean currents, and ocean heat.

In some areas of the Antarctic, air temperatures have been about 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than normal.

The Southern Annular Mode, a band of westerly winds that round Antarctica, is another significant factor. According to the NSIDC, these winds, which can accelerate sea ice melt, have been stronger than typical. This has contributed to regionally warming weather conditions.

The increase in pollution that heats the earth and the hole in the ozone layer above the continent have both been connected, in part, to the strength of the winds.

However, some theories contend that sea ice is melting as a result of warmth that has been trapped just below the ocean’s surface, according to Scambos.

In essence, he explained, heat was being agitated into the upper layer of water surrounding the Antarctic. This notion “has huge consequences for the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet” if it is supported and is connected to the overall warming of the oceans.

Sea ice loss may have repercussions that extend beyond Antarctica.

The loss of the Antarctic sea ice fringe exposes coastal ice sheets and glaciers to waves and warm ocean waters, increasing their susceptibility to melting and breaking apart. This has no direct impact on sea levels because the ice is already floating in the ocean.

An altered Antarctic landscape could have a significant impact on the region’s wildlife, from the penguins and seals that depend on sea ice for feeding and resting to the microscopic organisms and algae that support the food chain and provide food for krill, which in turn feed many of the region’s whales.

Adelie penguins on Paulet Island, which is close to the southernmost tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, in the Weddell Sea.
Adelie penguins on Paulet Island, which is close to the southernmost tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, in the Weddell Sea.
LightRocket/Wolfgang Kaehler via Getty Images
Alarming developments have been occurring in several areas of Antarctica for some time.

One of the regions in the Southern Hemisphere that is warming the fastest is the Antarctic Peninsula, a spindly chain of snowy mountains that protrudes off the west side of the continent and points toward South America.

After recently returning from a research trip to the Antarctic Peninsula, Carlos Moffat, an oceanographer at the University of Delaware, told CNN that the low sea ice and extremely warm ocean temperatures they discovered “are dramatically different from what we have observed in the last few decades.”

Seen in Coats Land, Antarctica, on January 24, 2023, is an overhead view of an iceberg that has split off the 150-meter-thick Brunt Ice Shelf and is nearly the size of Greater London. Images from Copernicus Sentinel-2 processed by DG DEFIS and distributed by the European Union through REUTERS THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REQUIRED CREDIT ABSENT RESALES ZERO ARCHIVES
In Antarctica, an iceberg the size of London separates.
The Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research participant Moffat said: “This year’s conditions are against a background of long-term change in this region of Antarctica.”

As the earth heats, experts warned that West Antarctica’s enormous Thwaites Glacier, commonly known as the “Doomsday Glacier,” is “holding on by its fingernails” and might rapidly retreat in the coming years. If Thwaites totally crumbled, scientists predict that global sea level rise would rise by about 10 feet, affecting coastal cities all over the world.

Given that Antarctica is renowned for having big swings, it is still too early to judge whether the record sea ice reduction is the new norm or if it will recover. While 2022 and 2023 had record-low minimum extents, four of the five biggest minimums have happened since 2008, according to the NSIDC.

It will take some time to unpack, according to Scambos. “We’re still processing a change that happened rather quickly. The past three years have unquestionably put a dramatic cap on a trend that was only beginning to emerge after 2016.

Yet, he added: “It does feel like something has shifted in the Antarctic and that things are very dramatic.” Scientists will still need at least another five years of data and observations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *