Scientists Say the Antarctic Sea is Hitting Record Low for the Second Time

By Lauren Dulatre

The ice from the Antarctic sea has reached low levels for the second time in the span of two years, and some scientists are alarmed that the drops are the effects of climate change. The ice in Antarctica dropped to 737,000 square miles on the 13th of February beating the other record that was set on February 25 last year being 741,000 square miles.  

According to scientists, the ice in the sea could shrink even further, and from the last two years, it marks the only time that the sea ice levels have dropped below 2 million square kilometers since satellites started monitoring  the process in 1978. “It’s not just ‘barely a record low’, it’s on a very steep downward trend,” said Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Contrasting from the Arctic, which the rate of ice in the sea loss is followed by a consistent downward direction as climate change continues to accelerate, the Antarctic sea ice length has gone up and down, making processes harder to figure out how the continent and the surrounding ocean are acknowledging global warming. The two regions are different alike, while the Arctic is surrounded by continents, Eurasia and North America, Antarctica is a continent surrounded by the ocean, the Southern Ocean. This means Antarctica’s sea ice can grow outward, as it is not limited by land, and the ice tends to be thinner than Arctic ice due to increase in global warming.

Several causes why the sea ice is so low includes winds, ocean currents and ocean heat. Also air temperatures have been higher than usual in the parts of Antarctica, around 1.5 degrees Celsius above the long term average temperature. Another important thing to consider is the belt of westerly winds which goes around Antarctica, which is also known as the Southern Annular Mode. The winds can increase the melting of sea ice, which have become stronger than usual according to the NSDIC, and also add on to the weather conditions that give warm air to the region. 

While the disappearance of sea ice does not really affect sea levels, the loss of the fringe of sea ice around the Antarctic leaves ice sheets on the coast and glaciers becoming exposed to waves and warm ocean waters, making it more vulnerable to breaking up and melting. Another effect of this is the wildlife that lives in the Antarctic. From the microorganisms and algae that help out the food chain, to the penguins and seals that rely on the sea ice for feeding and resting. 

“It’s going to take a while to unpack,” Scambos said. “We’re still reacting to a relatively sudden change. Certainly the last few years have been a dramatic exclamation point on a trend that was just developing after 2016.”

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