Antarctic sea ice hits historic low | Antarctica

After the record obtained in 2022, there is a new minimum record of the area of ​​sea ice in the Antarctica. On February 13, exactly one week ago, the sea ice that surrounds that continent reached a minimum area of ​​1.91 million square kilometers, below the 1.92 million square kilometers of 2022, according to the National Information Center of Ice and Snow (NSIDC), from the University of Colorado at Boulder, in the United States.

Antarctic sea ice varies in area throughout the year just like Antarctic sea ice. arctic. Between September and March, when the Southern Hemisphere goes through its Spring and Summer, part of the sea ice melts, reaching the minimum area over the fortnight between February 18th and March 3rd.

In 2022, the minimum area was reached on February 25, when the ice was reduced to 1.92 million square kilometers. By comparison, the Arctic ice minimum in 2022 was 4.87 million kilometers.

This year, the record for Antarctic sea ice was broken as early as February 13, with 1.91 million kilometers, but the minimum area for this year is expected to decrease even more in these weeks.

“This year is only the second year in which the Antarctic sea ice extent has been below two million square kilometers”, reads at the site of the NSIDC.

Since mid-December, the ice area has been below the 2021-2022 season.

The cause of the large melting of the ice is due to a combination of events, explains the center. On the one hand, the westerly winds that occur at those latitudes were stronger than normal. On the other hand, a center of low pressure located in the South Pacific Ocean, at the foot of West Antarctica, was stronger than normal, bringing warm air to both sides of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Since the 1970s, measurements of the area of ​​sea ice associated with that continent have been made. Despite the records of the last two years, there is great variability in the minimum areas. Four of the five years in which the minimum annual ice area reached the highest extensions occurred from 2008 onwards, with values ​​above 3.5 million square kilometers.

Despite that variability, “the great decline in ice extent [observado] since 2016 has driven research to assess the potential causes of sea ice loss in the Southern Hemisphere and whether there is a [nova] significant downward trend,” reads the site of the NSIDC.

green ice

Meanwhile, the Sentinela-2 satellite of the European Copernicus program captured, on February 16, images of green ice in the Ross Sea, the southernmost sea on Earth, located in the South Pacific Ocean.

The green stripes in the middle of the sea are ice dyed with the color of phytoplankton.
Sentinel-2/Copernicus/European Union

The color is due to an explosion of phytoplankton on the surface of that sea that dyed the ice green, according to information from Copernicus. This “unusual phenomenon” had already been observed in 2017, also at the end of summer.

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