It’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere, when sea ice typically forms around Antarctica. This year, however, that growth has been stunted, hitting a record low by a wide margin.
It’s deep winter in Antarctica, the time of year that the continent is shrouded in darkness and surrounded by millions of square miles of frozen ocean.
According to a recent study, however, there is significantly less sea ice in the region than ever recorded before.
Published in Frontiers in Environmental Science, the research shows that the continent’s minimum ice cover – which last year dipped below two million square kilometres for the first time since satellite monitoring began in 1987 – fell further to a new low in February.
As a result, there now exists an area of open ocean bigger than Greenland. In other words, if the ‘missing’ sea ice were a country, it’d be the tenth largest on Earth.
Scientists have also said that there’s no quick fix to reverse the damage done, which they attribute to global warming driven by the burning of fossil fuels.
With an additional heating of at least 0.4 °C now virtually unavoidable, they conclude that the continent will experience more pronounced extreme weather events in years to come, adding that they ‘cannot rule out future cascades where extreme events may have wide-ranging linked impacts in multiple realms.’
‘It’s going to take decades if not centuries for these things to recover. There’s no quick fix to replacing this ice,’ said Caroline Holmes, polar climate scientist at the British Antarctic Survey and one of the study’s co-authors. ‘It will certainly take a long time, even if it’s possible.’