The area of Antarctic sea ice is close to the historical minimum

For the third year in a row, the area of sea ice in the waters around Antarctica has been reduced to a historic minimum. According to scientists, this indicates long-term climate change.

A map of the Antarctic ice cover in February 2024. The yellow line marks the median values for the period from 1981 to 2010. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

In 2024, the minimum area of Antarctic sea ice was recorded on February 20. It amounted to 1.99 million km2. This is 30% less than the annual average for the period from 1981 to 2010. The difference in area is comparable to the size of the area of Turkey.

These figures were obtained during the analysis of data collected by microwave sensors on board the Nimbus-7 satellite, jointly operated by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Meteorological satellites used by the US military also took part in the study.

Dynamics of changes in the area of Antarctic sea ice. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

To determine the area of ice, scientists project satellite observation data onto a grid, and then add up the total area of each cell, which is covered with ice by at least 15 percent. The yellow outline on the published map shows the median area of sea ice in February for the period from 1981 to 2010. 

According to the figures, the Antarctic minimum of February 2024 is almost identical to the minimum of 2022. A smaller area of sea ice was recorded only in 2023, when it amounted to 1.79 million km2. According to scientists, the “regime shift” occurred in 2016, when the ice area fell noticeably. Since then, it has remained below normal. Formally, it is still too early to judge how long-term this change is. But many scientists have little doubt that further reduction of the ice cover is inevitable.

Earlier we talked about a giant iceberg that left the vicinity of Antarctica.

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