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Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice hit its lowest extent ever recorded by Satellites: Scientists

The ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas shrinks in a seasonal cycle from mid-March until mid-September

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Ice Loss in Antarctic Sea, VOA

Washington, March 23, 2017: While Arctic Sea ice reached this year a record low wintertime maximum extent, sea ice around Antarctica also hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellites at the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, scientists have said.

In February this year, the combined Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent was at its lowest point since satellites began to continuously measure sea ice in 1979, said scientists at NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.

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Total polar sea ice covered 16.21 million square km, which is two million square km less than the average global minimum extent for 1981-2010 — the equivalent of having lost a chunk of sea ice larger than Mexico, the study said.

“It is tempting to say that the record low we are seeing this year is global warming finally catching up with Antarctica,” Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a NASA release on Wednesday.

“However, this might just be an extreme case of pushing the envelope of year-to-year variability. We’ll need to have several more years of data to be able to say there has been a significant change in the trend,” Meier added.

The ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas shrinks in a seasonal cycle from mid-March until mid-September.

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As the Arctic temperatures drop in the autumn and winter, the ice cover grows again until it reaches its yearly maximum extent, typically in March.

The ring of sea ice around the Antarctic continent behaves in a similar manner, with the calendar flipped –it usually reaches its maximum in September and its minimum in February.

This winter, a combination of warmer-than-average temperatures, winds unfavourable to ice expansion, and a series of storms halted sea ice growth in the Arctic, the scientists said.

This year’s maximum extent, reached on March 7 at 14.42 million square kilometres, is 97,00 square kilometres below the previous record low, which occurred in 2015, and 1.22 million square kilometres smaller than the average maximum extent for 1981-2010, according to the scientists. (IANS)

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Antarctica’s Ice Melting Six Times Faster Due To Global Warming: Study

Warming ocean water will only speed up ice loss in the future.

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Antarctica, Ice
The Collins glacier on King George Island has retreated in the last 10 years and shows signs of fragility, in the Antarctic, Feb. 2, 2018. VOA

Global warming is melting ice in Antarctica faster than ever before — about six times more per year now than 40 years ago — leading to increasingly high sea levels worldwide, scientists warned on Monday.

Already, Antarctic melting has raised global sea levels more than half an inch (1.4 centimeters) between 1979 and 2017, said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer-reviewed US journal.

And the pace of melting is expected to lead to disastrous sea level rise in the years to come, according to lead author Eric Rignot, chair of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine.

“As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries,” Rignot said.

Iceberg, Antarctica
Iceberg, Antarctica, Pixabay

A rise of 1.8 meters (six feet) by 2100, as some scientists forecast in worst-case scenarios would flood many coastal cities that are home to millions of people around the world, previous research has shown.

For the current study, researchers embarked on the longest-ever assessment of ice mass in the Antarctic, across 18 geographic regions.

Data came from high-resolution aerial photographs taken by NASA planes, along with satellite radar from multiple space agencies.

Researchers discovered that from 1979 to 1990, Antarctica shed an average of 40 billion tons of ice mass annually.

By the years 2009 to 2017, the ice loss had increased more than sixfold, to 252 billion tons per year.

A glacier is shown in a photo taken in Half Moon Bay, Antarctica, Feb. 18, 2018.
A glacier is shown in a photo taken in Half Moon Bay, Antarctica, Feb. 18, 2018. VOA

Even more worrying, researchers found that areas that were once considered “stable and immune to change” in East Antarctica, are shedding quite a lot of ice, too, said the study.

“The Wilkes Land sector of East Antarctica has, overall, always been an important participant in the mass loss, even as far back as the 1980s, as our research has shown,” Rignot said.

Also Read: Emission of CO2 Levels Higher In Antarctica Than Believed

“This region is probably more sensitive to climate than has traditionally been assumed, and that’s important to know, because it holds even more ice than West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula together.”

Warming ocean water will only speed up ice loss in the future, Rignot said.

Recent research has shown that oceans are heating up faster than previously thought, setting new heat records in the last few years. (VOA)