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Melting sea ice in Antarctica

Melting sea ice in Antarctica

Antarctica has been relatively stable for a long time. But the ice there has melted more now than at any time since measurements began about 45 years ago. This also accelerates global warming.

The area covered by ice in the seas around Antarctica is smaller than it has been since satellite-based measurements began about 45 years ago. On February 16, thus before the end of the summer melt period, the total extent of sea ice was only 2.06 million square kilometres. This is lower than the previous record minimum in February 2022, as reported by the climate change service of the European Earth observation program Copernicus.

The C3S numbers confirm information from the US National Ice and Snow Data Center (NSIDC), which reports that the extent last month was just 1.79 million square kilometers. Copernicus attributes the difference to “different algorithms for determining sea ice”.

The glacier ice sheet is under special monitoring

It’s summer right now in the southern hemisphere. The ice in Antarctica recedes each summer and rebuilds in the winter. It has no direct effect on sea level because ice actually floats in water.

But the melting of the ice sheet is causing waves to attack the Antarctic ice sheet. The ice sheet – a thick freshwater glacier covering Antarctica – is under close scrutiny by scientists because it contains enough water to cause catastrophic sea level rise if it melted.

Antarctica has been stable for a long time

The decrease in the ice cover is also worrisome because it contributes to accelerating global warming – also in the Arctic. According to Copernicus, ice at the South Pole was “34 percent below average” throughout February 2023.

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According to Copernicus data, this is the eighth consecutive year that February sea ice cover in the Southern Ocean has been below the long-term average minimum. This leads to concerns that Antarctica is beginning to show a clear trend towards reducing pack ice.

Unlike the Arctic, where sea ice has receded since the late 1970s, the Antarctic has been relatively stable for decades — despite strong annual fluctuations.

(APA / sda / AFP)