Antarctica’s sea ice cover hits record low, likely to get worse

From 1.92 million square kilometers last year, the Antarctic sea ice cover has reduced to 1.91 million square kilometers this year



In a worrying development for the planet, the extent of sea ice around Antarctica has diminished for the second consecutive year, compelling scientists to report “never having seen such an extreme situation before”.

On February 13, 2023, the Antarctic sea ice extent fell to 1.91 million square kilometers – a record low.

According to a statement by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the extent of sea ice around earth’s southernmost and least-populated continent was 1.92 million square kilometers on February 25, 2022.

However, the current extent of sea ice is not final as there are a couple more weeks likely left in the melt season. “In past years, the annual minimum has occurred between 18 February and 3 March, so further decline is expected,” the NSIDC researchers said.

This year also marks the second consecutive year when the Antarctic sea ice extent has fallen below 2 million square kilometers.

Scientists have underlined a host of possible reasons behind the shrinking ice cover. According to them, the “intense melting” could be due to unusually high air temperatures of 1.5C, which were above the long-term average witnessed to the west and east of the Antarctic peninsula. The situation was further aggravated by what scientists call strong “westerly winds” in the region.

Whatever the reasons, the scientists are alarmed by the rapid depletion of sea ice extent within such a short span of time.

Prof Christian Haas, of the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in the Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany, told The Guardian: “The rapid decline in sea ice over the past six years is quite remarkable since the ice cover hardly changed at all in the 35 years before.”

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