November 30, 2023
Alarm raised as sea ice in Antarctic at record low

WASHINGTON: According to US researchers, Antarctic sea ice likely reached a record low last week, reaching its lowest extent in the 45 years of satellite record-keeping.

According to the University of Colorado Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), on February 21 Antarctica’s sea ice area decreased to 1.79 million square kilometers (691,000 million square miles).

That eclipsed the previous record low by 136,000 square kilometers, which was achieved in 2022. (52,500 square miles).

The most recent amount, according to NSIDC scientists, was only an estimate because more late-season melt was still conceivable.

They promised to provide a precise estimate of the amount of ice in early March.

The thicker ice shelves supporting Antarctica’s ground ice sheet are exposed to waves and warmer temperatures as a result of melting sea ice.

Sea ice is already submerged under ocean water, therefore melting it has little visible effect on sea levels.

But, the sea ice that surrounds the enormous ice shelves of Antarctica, which are the extensions of freshwater glaciers, poses a centuries-long threat of catastrophic sea level rise if it keeps melting due to rising global temperatures.

“Antarctica’s response to climate change has been different from the Arctic’s,” said Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES).

“The downward trend in sea ice may be a signal that global warming is finally affecting the floating ice around Antarctica, but it will take several more years to be confident of it,” Scambos indicated.

Throughout its summers of thawing and its winters of freezing, the Antarctic cycle has considerable annual changes, although the continent has not recently suffered the rapid melting brought on by global warming that affects the ice sheets of Greenland and the Arctic.

Yet, the high rate of melting since 2016 prompts worries that a serious downward trend may be establishing itself.

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The problem with sea ice melting is that it hastens global warming.

When black, unfrozen sea replaces white sea ice, which reflects up to 90% of the Sun’s energy back into space, the water absorbs a comparable amount of heat.

Although a natural La Nina weather trend had a cooling effect, last year was still one of the five or six warmest years on record globally.


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