An unprecedented melting of Antarctic sea ice occurred in mid-July. The ice turns out to be below average by 2.6 million square kilometers, as reported by CNN. The researchers observed that the ice has not returned to the levels expected for this time of year, hitting an all-time low since measurements began 45 years ago, thus surpassing the previous record set just last year by the National Snow and Ice Data Centers.
Ice shrinks to its lowest levels around the end of February, i.e. during the continent's summer, after which it gradually re-forms during the winter. But this year something different happened in the process of ice recovery, which is worrying scientists and researchers around the world.
Currently the extension is 1.6 million square km below the previous negative record which dates back to 2022, therefore literally pulverized. Ice shortages are widespread, but particularly in the Weddel Sea, Ross Sea and the southeastern part of the Bellingshausen Sea.
In contrast only the Amundsen Sea where the extent of sea ice exceeds the average.
Unprecedented melting of Antarctic ice in July 2023
From 1978 to 2015 there was a growth trend in Antarctic ice extent, albeit weak, abruptly interrupted by a strongly negative trend from 2016, further accelerating in 2022 and 2023.
Several studies indicate the surface layer as a potential cause of ocean waters around the Antarctic Peninsula, into which warmer water would have intruded. Scientists are not sure if they can attribute this dynamic to anthropogenic climate change.
Unlike the trend of the ice in the Arctic, in fact, the dynamics at the South Pole do not seem to follow the trend of global warming. Several positive records have also been recorded in recent years. But surely a value as low as that of 2023 will affect the climate globally.
Between 2000 and 2015, the expansion of Antarctic sea ice cover produced a cooling effect that largely offset the warming effect caused by melting ice in the Arctic region, according to a study by the Finnish Meteorological Institute published in 2021.
In addition to warming Antarctic waters and contributing, in a vicious circle, to melting more sea ice in Antarctica, the heat transported can contribute to unbalance the Earth's climate system as a whole, affecting hurricanes, heat waves, precipitation in many areas of the globe.