Record melting of Antarctic sea ice confirmed by Copernicus

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A record melting of the Antarctic sea ice confirmed by Copernicus

The European climate observatory Copernicus has confirmed the findings of an American observatory on the accelerated melting of the ice floe in Antarctica.

The extent of the ice floe in Antarctica has reached, in February, in the middle of the austral summer, a melting record. This is what the European climate observatory confirmed on Wednesday after similar American data, suggesting an intensification of melting over the last decade.

Sea ice, which melts in the summer and rebuilds in the winter, reached its lowest extent in the 45 years that satellite data has been recorded on February 16, said Samantha Burgess, deputy head of the observatory of change. European Union's Copernicus Climate Change (C3S).

The minimum daily Antarctic sea ice extent was reached on February 16, 2023 with a total area of ​​2.06 million km², C3S told AFP.

These observations confirm those of the reference American observatory, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which also announced that it had measured a record minimum extent of Antarctic sea ice in February.

The NSIDC, which produces its own satellite data with another method, announced for its part a minimum extent of 1.79 million square kilometers reached on February 21, specifying that it was about a preliminary figure to be confirmed, already well below the February 2022 record.

The melting of the sea ice has no immediate impact above sea level because it is formed by the freezing of salt water already present in the ocean.

But its melting subjects the ice sheet to the onslaught of the waves. However, this cap, a thick freshwater glacier that covers Antarctica, is particularly watched by scientists, because it contains enough water to cause a catastrophic rise in the level of the oceans if it were to occur. to melt.

Furthermore, the white sea ice reflects the sun's rays more than the darker ocean, and its loss thus accentuates global warming, because the rays are less returned to space.

“The polar ice caps are a telling indicator of the climate crisis and it is important to closely monitor the changes taking place there.

— Samantha Burgess, Deputy Head of the Copernicus Climate Change Observatory

According to Copernicus, the Antarctic sea ice, for the whole of February 2023, was 34% below the average, beating the monthly record of February 2017, itself close to the levels reached in 2018 and 2022.

This is the eighth year in a row that this sea ice has melted more than the average low for the month of February, according to C3S data (3.4 million square kilometers over the period from 1991 to 2020).

This observation raises fears that a significant trend of decreasing sea ice is taking place for the first time at the South Pole, whereas it was relatively stable over the previous four decades despite strong annual variations, unlike the North Pole where the melting is very marked.

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