The smallest sea ice area in half a century was recorded in Antarctica

Scientists at the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) record the lowest sea ice extent in Antarctica in 44 years. According to experts, the decrease in area is due to the general warming and more powerful inflow of warm water from subtropical regions to Antarctica, the AARI press service told reporters on Thursday.

“There are several reasons for this record low sea ice area. The main one is the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) <…>. It separates warm subtropical water in the north from cold water in the south. Although they have little effect on ocean currents, they increase the circular return currents, and the strengthening of the return branches of the ACC provokes the inflow of warm water into drifting ice,” the press service said.

Permanent observations in Antarctica are carried out by specialists from the Center for Ice and Hydrometeorological Information of the AARI. According to them, at the end of February 2023, the area of Antarctic sea ice was about 1.8 million square meters. km is the lowest sea ice extent recorded since 1979 in Antarctica. The ice remaining after the summer melting was preserved mainly in the Weddell and Amundsen seas, in the other seas it remained only along the coast. In general, in the summer season of 2022-2023, according to the AARI, the minimum ice cover over the past 7 years was also observed in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica – 2.23 million square meters. km.

AARI specialists remind that in the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth, winter ends in September, when the area of sea ice in Antarctica reaches its maximum – about 18-19 million square meters. km. Every year during December-February there is a summer melting of sea ice around Antarctica, and usually the ice area is reduced to 3 million square meters. km., which is significantly more than in recent years.

In addition to more frequent inflows of water from subtropical regions, scientists cite subglacial heating along the coast of the continent in the Pacific sector as the reasons for warming in Antarctica. The most powerful part of the Arctic volcanic belt is located here. At the same time, the lithosphere in this area is thinned, which allows magma to rise close to the surface. With the activation of an entire volcanic province, massive eruptions contribute to an increase in the rate of sea ice melting.

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