Ice roughly the size of Australia’s Northern Territory has disappeared from Antarctica as sea ice continues to sink to “alarming” record low levels.
Satellite data shows that sea ice around Antarctica has fallen below previously recorded winter levels, with scientists warning that this could have serious consequences.
“It’s so far beyond anything we’ve seen,” Walter Meier, z the National Snow and Ice Data Center told the BBC.
“It’s almost overwhelming.
The latest data shows that ice floating on the surface of the Southern Ocean currently measures less than 6.5 million square miles.
That’s down 579,000 square miles from the September average, roughly the size of Australia’s Northern Territory.
Dr. Ariaan Purich, a climatologist at Monash University, said “everyone should be concerned” about the loss of sea ice, which provides habitat for marine life and helps regulate temperatures.
“Sea ice is white and that means it’s highly reflective, so the incident sunlight that hits it is reflected back into space and that keeps the surface cool,” she told news.com.au.
“If we have less sea ice, that means more sunlight will be absorbed by the surface ocean, causing it to warm faster, and that can actually amplify global warming.”
Dr. Purich said that while we’ve been in low sea ice since 2016, this year has been “like any other” in the observational record.
“In June and July we had much less sea ice coverage around Antarctica than you usually have. It was about (965,000 square miles) less than usual in the Southern Ocean, making it the size of Western Australia.
The study, co-authored by Dr. Published last week, Purich found that ocean warming is one factor behind the decline.
“We have now shown that the Southern Ocean has been warming over the last few decades, and that warming is caused by increasing greenhouse gases,” she explained.
“It’s alarming, given the scale of the changes… And it underlines the urgency of climate change action.
“Our world is changing and we want to minimize it. So we really need to urgently reduce emissions as fast as we can and as much as possible to minimize these big changes going forward.”