Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Antarctic Sea Ice Cover at Record Low


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Antarctic

Mains level : Read the attached story


Central Idea

  • Sea ice in Antarctica reached its smallest area on record in February for the second consecutive year, continuing a decade-long decline.

Ice cover decline: Key data

(1) Square km decline

  • The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) provided the figures, highlighting the significant decrease in Antarctic sea ice.
  • On February 16, the ocean surface covered by ice around Antarctica shrank to 2.09 million square kilometers (800,000 square miles), the lowest level since satellite records began.

(2) Warming trends

  • Both the North and South poles have experienced significant warming, with temperatures rising by approximately 3 degrees Celsius compared to late 19th-century levels, three times the global average.
  • Arctic sea ice has been diminishing by about 3 percent per year since the late 1970s, while sea ice in Antarctica has remained relatively constant with large annual variations.

(3) Regional variances and vulnerabilities

  • Recent ice cover reduction during the southern hemisphere summer has been most pronounced in West Antarctica, which is more vulnerable to the impacts of global warming compared to East Antarctica.
  • Antarctica witnessed its first recorded heatwave in 2020, with temperatures 9.2 degrees Celsius above the mean maximum. Unusual temperature spikes have been observed in various parts of Antarctica.
  • The Arctic has also experienced significant declines in sea ice, with the record minimum sea ice extent occurring in 2012.

Impact of declining Ice Cover

  • Global sea level rise: Melting ice in Antarctica contributes to rising sea levels worldwide.
  • Disruption of ecosystems: Declining ice cover disrupts habitats and food sources for ice-dependent species.
  • Increased warming: Less ice reflects sunlight, leading to more heat absorption and further ice melting.
  • Changes in ocean circulation: Declining ice cover can disrupt currents and impact global climate patterns.
  • Release of stored carbon: Melting ice releases trapped carbon, potentially affecting marine ecosystems and contributing to climate change.
  • Amplification of global warming: Reduced ice cover creates a positive feedback loop, exacerbating climate change.
  • Disruption of biodiversity and food chains: Changing ice conditions impact species relying on ice algae and affect the overall Southern Ocean ecosystem.

Future projections

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted with high confidence that the Arctic Ocean would become practically ice-free in September at least once by mid-century.
  • The decreasing trends in both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice highlight the urgent need to address climate change and its impact on the Polar Regions.


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