The extent of the ice floe in Antarctica reached a new low at the end of February, marking a melting record since the start of satellite measurements 45 years ago, the reference American observatory announced on Monday February 27.
Antarctic sea ice melts in summer and recovers in winter.
In mid-February, the American National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced that even before the end of the summer, it had melted more than in 2022, already breaking its record.
But the melting continued, and this time the sea ice
"probably reached its minimum extent for the year, at 1.79 million square kilometers, on February 21, 2023
," the observatory said.
However, he clarified that this figure was
“continued melting conditions could push the ice extent further down”
A formal announcement is expected in early March.
No immediate impact
The melting of sea ice has no immediate impact on sea level, because it forms by freezing the salt water already present in the ocean.
“lower sea ice extent means that ocean waves will hit the shores of the ice sheet, further reducing the ice barriers around Antarctica”
, NSIDC contributor researcher Ted Scambos said in a statement.
However, the ice cap - a thick freshwater glacier that covers Antarctica - is particularly monitored by scientists because it contains enough water to cause a catastrophic rise in the level of the oceans if it were to melt.
In addition, the white sea ice reflects the sun's rays more than the ocean, which is darker, and its loss thus accentuates global warming.
In February 2022, the Antarctic sea ice had dropped below 2 million square kilometers for the first time.
The years 2017 and 2018 had also reached a very low extent (third and fourth weakest).
“The declining sea ice trend could be a signal that global warming has finally affected the ice floating around Antarctica, but it will take several more years to be certain,” said
The effect of global warming on the Arctic sea ice, where temperatures are rising much faster than on the rest of the Earth, is already well proven.