Antarctica lost 17% of ice in May, compared to the last 20 years

The causes for this average ice concentrations, the Copernicus scientists explain, are associated with well above average surface air temperatures

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Antarctica lost 17% of ice in May, compared to the last 20 years

Copernicus recorded 8.8 million square kilometers of sea ice in Antarctica in May 2023. This number is 17% less than the average for the period 1991-2020. This is a consequence of the climate crisis caused by CO2 emissions and which is inexorably increasing the temperatures of our planet.

In fact, the month of May that has just ended was the one with the highest sea surface temperature and the highest sea air temperature ever recorded averaged over all the ice-free seas of the world. The causes for this average ice concentrations, the Copernicus scientists explain, are associated with well above average surface air temperatures.

A new study indicates that some observable changes in global climate could unleash gigantic tsunamis by triggering underwater landslides in Antarctica. This fact is no less, and should be a topic, as well as global, of greater attention for the countries of the southern hemisphere such as Argentina, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and further north, the coast of the Indian Ocean.

As rising temperatures warm the oceans, researchers believe there's a chance these tsunamis could strike again in the future. In their work summary, the team led by Jenny Gales, from the School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth in the UK, indicate that Antarctica's continental margins have an unknown risk of tsunamis triggered by underwater landslides, a danger to populations and infrastructures of the southern hemisphere.

Sediment slides beneath the Antarctic seafloor could trigger giant tsunamis as the oceans warm, a hypothesis that is currently being worked on to understand this process. The multidisciplinary study pointed to a major submarine landslide complex along the eastern continental slope of the Ross Sea that identifies preconditioning factors and subsidence mechanisms.

The weak layers, identified under three submarine landslides, consist of distinct intercalated packets of diatoms and glaciomarine deposits from the Miocene to the Pliocene. These recurring submarine landslides in Antarctica were likely triggered by seismicity associated with glacial readaptation, leading to subsidence within preconditioned weak layers.

Current global warming and ice retreat may increase regional glacioisostatic seismicity, triggering Antarctic submarine landslides.