Sea ice levels in Antarctica reached a record low on Tuesday, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC). The new record surpasses the previous figure set in February last year, with scientists predicting further decline in coming weeks. A combination of weather conditions has brought warm air to the region in recent months, which has cleared ice cover across Antarctica.
The new record is 1.91 million square kilometres of Antarctic sea ice – 0.01 square kilometres less than what was recorded on 25 February, 2022. Scientists believe current ice levels could continue to decrease because the annual minimum figure is usually recorded between 18 February and 3 March.
Is It Climate Change?
Associate Professor at the University of NSW, Alex Sen Gupta, told TDA that Antarctic sea ice has been influenced by global warming in two competing ways. While global warming tends to reduce the amount of sea ice, strong winds in the region (that are caused by climate change and ozone depletion) push the sea ice away from Antarctica, which increases its area size and can balance out the warming effect. Sen Gupta said that before 2016, the wind effect was “overcompensating the warming effect”, but this has now subsided, and given way to “dramatic losses in sea ice”.
Why Does It Matter?
Sea ice cools the polar regions and reflects sunlight back into space, which helps moderate climate change. Sea ice melts in warming temperatures, which opens space for darker, open oceans to absorb more solar energy. This begins a cycle of further warming and melting of sea ice. The NSIDC said that four of the five lowest levels of sea ice in Antarctica had been recorded since 2008.