Study: Antarctic Sea Ice Surpasses Lowest Level in 36 Years

    Study: Antarctic Sea Ice Surpasses Lowest Level in 36 Years
    Last updated Sep 18, 2023
    Image credit: Unsplash


    • According to a study published by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (a research institute affiliated with the University of Colorado Boulder), on Sept. 13, 2023, Antarctica's sea ice level is over 1M sq km (386K sq mi) below the previous record low maximum set in 1986.
    • Through the first eight days of September, Antarctica's sea ice grew at a rate of 65K square km (40K sq mi) per day. However, growth slowed after Sept. 8, 2023.
    • As no further net growth occurred, the sea ice surrounding Antarctica now reportedly measures less than 17M square kilometers — 1.5M square kilometers less than the September average.
    • With the area of missing ice estimated at five times the size of the British Isles, scientists are warning about the potential ramifications that could be devastating to the regulation of global temperatures.
    • "It's so far outside anything we've seen, it's almost mind-blowing," said Walter Meier, who monitors sea ice with the Center, adding that the sea-ice levels may not recover substantially.
    • Since the 1950s, Antarctica's climate patterns have been considerably altered, with the continent recording temperature increases of 3.2°C — a rate that's more than triple the global average.


    Narrative A

    Global warming — which has caused record-warm oceans and brought significant changes in ocean currents and wind patterns — is to be blamed for Antarctica's vanishing sea ice. A drop in the continent's sea ice levels has repercussions beyond the polar regions. This loss has consequences for Earth's greater climate and global weather events.

    Narrative B

    This isn't the first time scientists have raised alarms regarding vanishing sea ice levels in Antarctica. The region witnessed similar lows in 2017 and 2022. Besides, as scientists are still trying to figure out the factors that led to this year's low sea ice, it would be too early to jump to conclusions. The El Niño weather phenomenon, currently developing in the Pacific, could be at fault.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 50% chance that the Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf will collapse by January 2027, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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