(ORDO NEWS) — As the Northern Hemisphere sees record heatwaves, Antarctica is breaking its own horrendous climate record. Sea ice on the continent has hit an all-time low for this time of year, and scientists are trying to figure out why.
Typically, Antarctic sea ice shrinks to a minimum by the end of February during the continent’s summer season and then builds up again during the winter. However, this year the sea ice has not returned to the expected level and is at its lowest level on record since 45 years ago.
In mid-July, the area of sea ice was 2.6 million square meters. km below the 1981-2010 average, which is almost equal to the area of Argentina or the combined area of Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado.
Some scientists call this phenomenon exceptional, occurring only once in millions of years. However, glaciologist Ted Scambos of the University of Colorado at Boulder says it’s useless to talk in those terms because the system has changed.
“It makes no sense to talk about the likelihood that everything will happen as it was before; it clearly tells us that the system has changed,” he said.
Antarctica is a remote and complex continent, and unlike the Arctic, where sea ice is constantly decreasing due to the climate crisis, sea ice in Antarctica has fluctuated from record highs to record lows in recent decades.
Therefore, it is more difficult for scientists to understand how it responds to global warming. However, since 2016, scientists have observed a sharp downward trend.
Several factors are contributing to the loss of sea ice, including the strength of westerly winds around Antarctica, which have been linked to increased pollution of the planet.
“The warmer ocean temperatures north of the Antarctic Ocean boundary, mixing with water that is usually somewhat isolated from the rest of the world‘s oceans, is also part of the idea of how to explain it,” Scambos said.
At the end of February this year, Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest level on record at 691,000 square miles. miles. Scambos said this winter’s unprecedented occurrence could be indicative of long-term changes in the isolated continent. It is more than likely that we will not see the restoration of the Antarctic system as it was, say, 15 years ago, for a very long time in the future, and possibly “never”.
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