The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has reported that on September 10, the maximum extent of sea ice in Antarctica reached a historic low, setting a new record since satellite data collection began in 1979. The measurement for that day was only 16.96 million square kilometers, one million square kilometers below the previous record low set in 1986.
According to Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at NSIDC, this year’s Antarctic sea ice extent is extremely unusual and unprecedented. Unlike the Arctic, where sea ice loss and environmental changes have been extensively documented, Antarctic sea ice extent has been relatively stable. However, signs of a downward trend in Antarctica have emerged since 2016, although characterized by significant fluctuations.
Ice distributions around the continent vary, with ice extent north of Queen Maud Land and west of the Antarctic Peninsula described as “markedly below average.” The same goes for the Ross Sea and the Indian Ocean. On the other hand, ice extent off the Amundsen Sea is above average.
The NSIDC suggests that the recent excursion of low sea ice extent, which began in May 2023, and the persistence of low sea ice since 2016, may be linked to warming in the uppermost ocean layer caused by mixing with warmer water. The increased mixing of warm waters with polar layers in the Southern Ocean, due to ocean warming, could have far-reaching impacts on Antarctic species that rely on sea ice for food and breeding, as well as erosion along the coastline.
The NSIDC emphasizes that no place is immune to climate change, and Antarctica serves as a stark indication of this. Further analysis and possible causes of this year’s ice season will be released by the NSIDC in October.
Source: Not Provided