The extent of sea ice around Antarctica is at a record low for the end of June.
The current Antarctic sea ice extent is over 1.3 million sq km below the next lowest recorded extent for the time of year. That shortfall is more than five times the surface area of the UK.
Dr Ed Blockley leads the Met Office’s Polar Climate Group. He said: “Antarctic sea ice extent reaches a maximum around the end of September and a minimum around the end of February. At the end of June, the extent of sea ice should be building to a mid-point between the maximum and the minimum. However, this year the ice is expanding very slowly with the consequence that the extent is way below the long-term (1981-2010) average.
“The annual minimum extent in February 2023 was the lowest since satellite records began in 1979, just over one million square kilometres below the long-term average., The current extent is extraordinarily low: it is in excess of 2.5 million square kilometres below average for the time of year.”
Researchers around the world are striving to understand why the extent of Antarctic sea ice isn’t coming back at the rate it should be. Higher air temperatures and anomalous atmospheric circulation patterns around the continent could be a part of the issue.
As winter around the Antarctic continent continues the average temperature will reduce, which will allow time for the ice extent to increase further. Ed Blockley added: “It is too early to speculate whether ice extent will remain at extremely low levels. There is still time this season for the ice to recover but given the record lows we have seen we have to remain concerned about the likelihood of a record low winter maximum.”