Simone Garza | February 28,2022
A recent analysis of satellite images revealed the sea ice surrounding Antarctica is at a record low after forty years of observations.
On Feb. 22, sea ice covered only 750,000 square miles around the Antarctic coast. This report is extremely low compared to 2017 as the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado’s analysis showed an ice record of 815,000 square miles.
Antarctic sea ice amounts vary by year, but have increased slightly on average since the late 1970s.
In contrast, sea ice extent in the Arctic, typically warming nearly three times faster than other regions, has decreased more than 10 percent every decade over the same period.
Although disturbance of normal weather patterns and erosion of arctic coastlines is the explanation for the shrinking of sea ice in the Arctic, it is unclear what the impact of climate change is on the Antarctic, according to the center.
Edward Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, a climate scientist at the University of Washington, said scientists predict that global warming will lead to a decrease in Antarctic sea ice over time.
There has been research involving the El Niños in 2015 and 2016, which is a climate pattern that causes unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, that showed when sea surface temperatures were unusually high it led to decreased sea ice coverage in 2016.
Marilyn Raphael, a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies Antarctic sea ice, said another possible effect could trace back to wind around the western side of the Amundsen Sea continent. A region of low air pressure regularly develops over the sea and has been strong this year. This may have driven ice more to the north, meaning there is warmer water where it could melt rapidly.
Sea ice is essential because it maintains the Earth’s energy and keeps polar regions cool by reflecting sunlight back to space. Sea ice is also vital for polar ecosystems, as it releases nutrients in the water when ice melts in the summer. Sea ice also helps prevent global warming by confining existing heat in the ocean, to refrain from warming the air above.