The sea ice decreases around Antarctica for the second year running
The ice cover surrounding the mainland of Antarctica has become smaller for the second year in a row, after several years of record spreading. Researchers have no explanation for the phenomenon of decreasing sea ice.
The report comes only days after the measurements from the Arctic, on the other side of the globe, showed record high temperatures and the smallest extent of sea ice in February since the measurements were inaugurated half a century ago.
Australia’s Antarctic Division (ADD) says the last satellite images show an extent of 2.15 million square kilometres of sea ice. In March of last year, the figure was 2.07 million km2, record-low for the “summer” measurements in the southern hemisphere.
Little sea ice in the cold season as well
Last year there was also little sea ice at the winter measurement, with 18.05 million square kilometers of sea being covered by ice.
Antarctic researcher Phil Reid says that the measurements show a significant deviation from what has been the trend in recent years, a steady increase of 1.7 per cent for every decade since 1979.
ADD researcher Rob Massom says that researchers do not yet understand the reasons behind the change in this pattern, but it has high priority to understand the forces that are at work.
– The sea ice plays an important role in the global climate system and creates a valuable living environment for a variety of species, from microscopic organisms to whales, says Massom.
About Antarctica (Wikipedia)
Antarctica (UK English /ænˈtɑːktɪkə/ or /ænˈtɑːtɪkə/, US English /æntˈɑːrktɪkə/) is Earth’s southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean.
At 14,000,000 square kilometres (5,400,000 square miles), it is the fifth-largest continent. For comparison, Antarctica is nearly twice the size of Australia. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages 1.9 km (1.2 mi; 6,200 ft) in thickness, which extends to all but the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Antarctica is a desert, with annual precipitation of only 200 mm (8 in) along the coast and far less inland.
The temperature in Antarctica has reached −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F) (or even −94.7 °C as measured from space), though the average for the third quarter (the coldest part of the year) is −63 °C (−81 °F). Anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent. Organisms native to Antarctica include many types of algae, bacteria, fungi, plants, protista, and certain animals, such as mites, nematodes, penguins, seals and tardigrades. Vegetation, where it occurs, is tundra.
Although myths and speculation about a Terra Australis (“Southern Land”) date back to antiquity, Antarctica is noted as the last region on Earth in recorded history to be discovered, unseen until 1820 when the Russian expedition of Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev on Vostok and Mirny sighted the Fimbul ice shelf.
The continent, however, remained largely neglected for the rest of the 19th century because of its hostile environment, lack of easily accessible resources, and isolation. In 1895, the first confirmed landing was conducted by a team of Norwegians.
Antarctica is a de facto condominium, governed by parties to the Antarctic Treaty System that have consulting status. Twelve countries signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, and thirty-eight have signed it since then.
The treaty prohibits military activities and mineral mining, prohibits nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal, supports scientific research, and protects the continent’s ecozone. Ongoing experiments are conducted by more than 4,000 scientists from many nations.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today