According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Antarctic and the Arctic have the lowest combined sea extent this year, as well as the lowest-ever January.
According to the report by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), January 2023 was the seventh warmest period globally. The month was 0.25 degrees Celsius warmer than the average between 1991 and 2020.
The Arctic and the Antarctic
The Arctic and the Antarctic are two of the world’s most distinct and inhospitable environments.
The Arctic is located at the northernmost part of the earth, surrounding the North Pole. It is characterized by cold temperatures, ice floes, and long periods of darkness in the winter and continuous daylight in the summer. It is home to many unique species of plants and animals, such as the polar bear, the Arctic fox, and the walrus, which have adapted to the harsh environment.
The Antarctic, on the other hand, is located at the southernmost part of the earth, surrounding the South Pole. It is the driest and coldest continent on the planet, with temperatures that can drop as low as minus 128 degrees Fahrenheit. The Antarctic is also covered by ice, with ice shelves that can be several thousand feet thick in some places. Unlike it, the Antarctic has no permanent human residents but is visited by researchers and support staff during the summer months.
Both the them are important to the world in many ways. They play a critical role in regulating the Earth’s climate and are home to unique ecosystems.
Increasingly Higher Warming Rate
The temperature in the Arctic is rising twice as fast as the global average. This resulted in the ice being reduced significantly over the 44-year satellite record. Based on the trend, nearly 1.89 million square kilometres of ice have been lost in January since 1979. This is about twice the size of Germany.
Meteorologists use both temperatures and sea ice extent as key climate indicators to study the globally changing climate. Sea ice extent is the area of ice that covers the both Ocean at a given time.
According to US-based experts, the sea ice extent in the Antarctic was recorded at 3.23 million sq km. This was the lowest January extent in the satellite record and is just below the previous January record low of 3.78 million sq km recorded in 2017.
The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) said that during the last 12 months, global temperatures were 0.30 degrees warmer than the average.
Many countries experienced above-average temperatures in January. Countries such as the Eastern US, Mexico, Canada, and most parts of Europe are included in this Contrary to this, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Australia, and Siberia all recorded below-average temperatures.
In India, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) recorded that the mean temperature remained 0.29 degrees above normal last month.
Europe always had the harshest winters, but this time it experienced its third warmest January since the year 1979. The World Meteorological Organization also observed record warming in numerous locations in Europe, especially on New Year’s Day.
In some of the regions, like Warsaw in Poland, and the western part of Ukraine, the temperatures jumped 15 to 16 degrees above average in January. Whereas, Siberia experienced a much cooler January average, and Dzalinda in Russia recorded -62.1°C.
The lower sea ice extent as well as the warming of the global temperature are both worrying signs. Lower sea ice extent means that the new ice that forms over them will be more fragile and breakable. If this turns into a vicious cycle, then the sea ice will have difficulty recovering.