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According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), on February 13, 2023, Antarctica Sea ice levels hit a record low. According to reports, the Antarctic sea ice extent has decreased to 1.91 million square kilometers, which is less than the previous record of 1.92 million square kilometers recorded on February 25, 2022.
The two polar regions, the Arctic and Antarctic ice, are of different natures. Compared to Arctic ice, Antarctic ice is often thinner. However, both regions will be affected by the warm air and ocean temperatures. United State Environment Protection Agency has stated that the sea ice coverage in Antarctica has not yet decreased. Still, the Arctic has already shown a substantial fall because of the effect of wind patterns, ocean currents, and precipitation surrounding the continent.
Figure 1: This figure shows the Antarctic sea ice extent for February and September of each year from 1979 through 2021. Source
Figure 2: The graph represents the Antarctic sea ice extent on February 13, 2023, and daily ice extent data for the last four years and for the years that have a high record of ice melting year. Source
From the last seven years, 2017, 2022, and now 2023 are the years when Antarctica sea ice levels hit a record low. According to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, 2022 and 2023 have consequently seen low ice levels in the Antarctic. In fact, since satellite records have been kept, which date back about 43 years, 2023 has seen the lowest minimum extent. It has been predicted to shrink even further before this year’s summer melting season is over.
Sea ice loss may have repercussions that extend beyond Antarctica. Zeke Haufather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth in California, said that the decrease in ice level might be a short-term variable. It can be comparable to the Arctic over the past 50 years. He also warned that climate change might have a role to play in the melting of Antarctic sea ice.
The topographical change due to the melting of ice will significantly affect the species of the Antarctic. Species like microbes and algae, whales and penguins, and seals depend on sea ice for rest and eating. According to the World Meteorological Organization, millions of people will be at risk, too, as the sea levels rise further and quicker than they have in the past several decades.
According to NSIDC, the present 0.9 percent decreasing linear trend in the Antarctic minimum extent from 1979 to 2023. This trend is not statistically significant at this time. However, the rapid decrease in sea extent since 2016 has intrigued researchers to understand the causes. They want to determine whether sea ice loss in the southern hemisphere is establishing a significant downward trend.