Sea ice in Antarctica shrank to the smallest area on record in February for the second year in a row, continuing a decade-long decline, the European Union’s climate monitoring service said Tuesday.
On February 16, the ocean surface covered by ice around the frozen continent shrank to 2.09 million square kilometers (nearly 800,000 square miles), the lowest level since satellite records began, according to figures provided to AFP by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).
“Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest extent in the 45-year satellite data record,” said Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of C3S.
US government scientists confirmed a new record last month but indicated an even lower figure of 1.79 million sq km, a difference Copernicus attributed to “different sea ice retrieval algorithms.”
Sea ice concentrations during the southern hemisphere summer were well below average in all sectors of the Southern Ocean.
Startlingly, the record lows this year and in 2022 are about 30 percent below the 1981-2010 average.
“These low sea ice conditions may have important implications for the stability of Antarctic ice shelves and ultimately for global sea level rise,” said Burgess.
“Polar ice caps are a sensitive indicator of the climate crisis.”
Melting sea ice has no discernible impact on sea levels because the ice is already in ocean water.
But diminished ice cover is nonetheless a major concern because it helps accelerate global warming, including in the Arctic region.
About 90 percent of the Sun’s energy that hits white sea ice is reflected back into space. But when sunlight hits dark, unfrozen ocean water, nearly the same amount of that energy is absorbed instead, contributing directly to global warming.
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