Antarctic ice sheet with smallest recorded surface | Messages

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The Antarctic ice sheet has shrunk to the smallest area on record, another sign that accelerating climate change is hitting some of the coldest regions hardest.

The ice surrounding the continent has retreated to 760,620 square miles (1.97 million square kilometers), preliminary satellite data from the National Sea Ice Data Center in Colorado showed Monday. That’s below the previous record of 810,814.5 square miles (2.1 million square kilometers) set in 2017.

“It’s terrifying to see this frozen ocean melting,” said Laura Meller, polar adviser at the nonprofit organization Greenpeace. “The consequences of these changes extend across the planet, affecting marine food webs around the globe.”

The results reinforce evidence that global temperature changes are becoming more extreme. The past eight years have been the hottest on record, with 2021 ranked as the sixth warmest, according to US government data. The poles are particularly hard hit, with Arctic sea ice shrinking by an average of 13% every ten years since 1979.

At the South Pole, the latest data provide even more evidence of “climate breakdown,” with some parts of the region warming faster than anywhere else in the world, Greenpeace said. The knock-on effects include sea-level rise, disruption to wildlife migration patterns, and—as the reflective surface of the ice is reduced—even faster warming.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned last year that with sustained warming of between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius, the West Antarctic ice sheet would be “almost completely and irrevocably lost over several millennia.”

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