Washington, Sept 26 (EFE).- The extent of Antarctic ice this southern winter was 16.96 million square kilometers, the smallest recorded in more than four decades, according to the United States National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
The agency stressed that “there is some concern that this may be the beginning of a long-term trend of decline for Antarctic sea ice, since oceans are warming globally, and warm water mixing in the Southern Ocean polar layer could continue.”
The NSIDC, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said the extent reached on September 10 was 1.03 million square kilometers smaller than the previous record low in the winter of 1986.
Likewise, data collected by satellite since 1979 show that sea ice in the winter of 2023 extended 1.75 million square kilometers less than the average maximum extent from 1981 to 2010.
This is the first time since records began that it was below 17 million square kilometers, and one of the earliest, occurring 13 days earlier than the 1981-2010 average, on September 23.
Scientists suspect this may be a sign that years of the “slow burn” of climate change are finally taking their toll on Antarctica.
“This year is different,” said Ted Scambos, an Antarctic expert at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. “It’s a very sudden change.”
The report added: “Sea ice extent is well below average north of Queen Maud Land and west of the Antarctic Peninsula. Other low areas include the Indian Ocean and the Ross Sea.”
The report added that the general persistence of low sea ice extent near Antarctica since 2016 is thought to be related to warming in the top layer of the ocean, caused by lateral and upward mixing of warmer water. EFE