6 Apr 2023 21:40

Sea ice indicators at record low in Antarctic

MOSCOW. April 6 (Interfax) - Minimal ice coverage has been observed in the Southern Ocean for the second year in a row after the summer season, which lasts from December to February in the Antarctic, the Center for Ice and Hydrometeorological Information of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) said in a report.

The lowest sea ice volumes in 44 years were recorded in the Antarctic this year, the report said.

"At the end of February 2023, the area under Antarctic sea ice reached some 1.8 million square meters, which is the lowest figure in the period of regular ice observations in the Antarctic, which have been conducted since 1979. The ice remaining after the summer melting remained mostly in the Weddell and Amundsen Seas, and in the other seas ice remained only along the coastline. Low sea ice areas at the end of the summer season, 1.92 million square meters, were also recorded in February 2022," the press release said.

The Center for Ice and Hydrometeorological Information uses satellite data to monitor the amount of ice in the Southern Ocean and to make ice maps in all Antarctic seas all year round. Every year, sea ice melts around the Antarctic in December-February, and the ice area normally decreases to three million square meters. But this year, huge ice-free areas were formed in the Southern Ocean, the center's experts said.

The scientists give several reasons for the record low sea ice areas in the Antarctic this year. "Chief among them is the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), also called the West Wind Drift, which surround the Southern Ocean. It separates warm subtropical water in the north from cold water in the south. As the climate changes, western winds increase and, despite the fact that their influence on oceanic currents is insignificant, they reinforce the reverse circumcurrents. And the increase of the reverse flows of the ACC cause warm water to flow into drifting ice," the press release said.

The document also talks about the degradation of ice in the Pacific Ocean sector, where subglacial warming is observed along the entire coastline due to underwater volcanoes. "The volcanic belt of the Antarctic is traced along the Western coast of the mainland, where the largest ice volcano province in the world is located. The lithosphere is thin in this region, and that enables magma to come close to the surface. When a whole volcanic province intensifies, mass eruptions speed up the melting of sea ice in this region of the Antarctic," scientists said.

The Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute is a leading world research center studying Earth's polar regions. The institute conducts the entire cycle of work in high latitudes for the Russian Federation and commercial companies. The AARI is a state operator organizing operations in the Arctic and the Antarctic.