Environment & Biodiversity Uncategorized

Antarctic Sea Ice Coverage at a Record Low

For the second year in a row, Antarctic sea ice hit the smallest area on record in February, continuing a decade-long decrease.

Key data on ice cover decline

(1) Square km decline

  • The figures were published by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), which highlighted the dramatic decline in Antarctic sea ice.
  • The ice-covered ocean area around Antarctica dropped to 2.09 million square kilometres (800,000 square miles) on February 16, the lowest level since satellite records began.

(2) Warming trends

  • Temperatures at both the North and South poles have risen by around 3 degrees Celsius compared to late-nineteenth-century values, which is three times the global average.
  • Since the late 1970s, Arctic sea ice has been shrinking by roughly 3% each year, while Antarctic sea ice has been relatively steady with substantial yearly changes.

(3) Regional variances and vulnerabilities

  • The recent decline in ice cover during the southern hemisphere summer has been particularly noticeable in West Antarctica, which is more vulnerable to the effects of global warming than East Antarctica.
  • In 2020, Antarctica experienced its first heatwave, with temperatures 9.2 degrees Celsius above the average maximum. Temperature spikes that are out of the ordinary have been seen in several locations of Antarctica.
  • The Arctic has also seen major losses in sea ice, with 2012 setting a new low for minimum sea ice extent.

The Effects of Declining Ice Coverage

  • Melting ice in Antarctica leads to rising sea levels across the planet.
  • Ecosystem disruption: Reduced ice cover impacts habitats and food sources for ice-dependent organisms.
  • Increased warming: Because less ice reflects sunlight, more heat is absorbed and more ice melts.
  • Ocean circulation changes: Declining ice cover can disrupt currents and have an impact on global climate patterns.
  • Melting ice releases trapped carbon, which may have an impact on marine ecosystems and contribute to climate change.
  • Amplification of global warming: The loss of ice cover produces a positive feedback loop that accelerates climate change.
  • Changes in ice conditions have an influence on species that rely on ice algae, as well as the wider Southern Ocean environment.

Forecasts for the future

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that by mid-century, the Arctic Ocean would be nearly ice-free in September at least once.
  • The declining trends in Arctic and Antarctic sea ice underline the critical importance of addressing climate change and its impact on the Polar Regions.
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