Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) of NASA at the University of Colorado Boulder reported that Antarctic sea ice likely reached its minimum extent for 2023, at 1.79 million square kilometres on February 21. This minimum is the lowest in the 45-year satellite record and has beaten the previous record low, which occurred in 2022, by 0.136,000 million km2.
“Antarctica’s response to climate change has been different from the Arctic’s,” said Ted Scambos, a senior researcher who is involved with the Antarctic sea ice analysis. “The downward trend in sea ice may be a signal that global warming is finally affecting the floating ice around Antarctica, but it will take several more years to be confident of it. Lower sea ice extent means that ocean waves will pound the coast of the giant ice sheet, further reducing ice shelves around Antarctica.” Julienne Stroeve, the NSIDC’s senior research scientist, added: “The sea ice helps to buffer large floating ice shelves and major outlet glaciers such as Pine Island and Thwaites, and if these glaciers begin a more rapid runaway loss of land ice, it could trigger a dramatic increase in sea level rise rates before the end of this century.”
The NSIDC stated that the Antarctic sea ice extent number is preliminary; continued melt conditions could lower the ice extent further.