For some of the biggest melting glaciers, the sea ice acts as a barrier.
The Antarctic ice shelf is under intense observation by scientists since the latest post may soon result in fast melting and rising sea levels.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Antarctica’s sea ice has finally reached its minimum extent for 2023, supporting predictions made by scientists that the melting will continue at a record-breaking rate.
The Antarctic sea ice extent was 1.79 million square kilometres (691,000 square miles), at the height of the region’s summer, on February 21. This was the lowest sea ice extent ever observed for the second year in a row.
The minimal extent for this year was almost 52,000 square miles less than it was for 2022, according to the researchers.
The sea ice practically encircles the Antarctic continent when it is at its greatest extent in September, acting as a divider between the region’s major outlet glaciers and enormous floating ice shelves. According to Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, a drop in sea ice extent means that ocean waves would pound the massive ice sheet’s shore more violently, thus reducing the ice shelves surrounding the Antarctic.
At its peak Pine Island and Thwaites, two of the bigger glaciers, are the glaciers that melt the fastest in the area, are situated in West Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea, and are in part to blame for the region’s highest contribution to sea level rise.
The buffers that prohibit the enormous volume of glacier melting from rapidly pouring water into the ocean, which would produce enormous waves and lead to more significant glacial calving occurrences, also shrink as the sea ice extent does.
ABC News was informed by Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. Calving activities on Pine Island and Thwaites “may cause a major spike in sea level rise rates by the end of this century,” Scambos added.
The sea ice, according to Meier, “helps to pin back the glaciers and prevent the ice from flying off the land.” “But, when the ocean is exposed, the ocean heats up, you get waves, and that makes those [glaciers] less stable without the sea ice there”.
As the world’s temperatures rise, Antarctica’s melting has not advanced as quickly as it has in the Arctic, which Meier called the “centre of action.”
It has been on a lengthy, quite sharp fall, he claimed. For the past 10 to 15 years, we have had record lows or very close to record lows.
Antarctic sea ice – an overview
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Arctic is rising twice as quickly as the rest of the world, accelerating sea level rise and additional warmth. However, Scambos suggested that the present decline in sea ice near the South Pole may be an indication that climate change is “finally harming” the floating ice cap that surrounds Antarctica.
The Snow and Ice Data Center, which tracks sea ice by using data from NASA, claims that the Antarctic summers from 2013 through 2015 experienced “near-record” minimal extents. Meier stated that investigators are still attempting to figure out whether the variations in the maximum and shortest extents year after year are due to natural variation or if they are a more telling reflection of the effects of climate change.
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