Record minimum Antarctic sea ice 'obliterates' previous low

Updated 2017-03-01 12:05:26 Xinhua

There is 10 percent less sea ice in Antarctica than the previous record low, Australian scientists have found.

Jan Lieser, a sea ice scientist at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Tasmania, said that the sea ice extent around the continent had shrunk to 2.1091 million square kilometers.

The area covered by ice has been threatening to drop below the previous minimum, 2.32 million square kilometers recorded in February 2011, for much of the southern summer and is now 10 percent lower.

"One would probably say the old record was obliterated," Lieser told Fairfax Media in comments published on Wednesday.

The drop in ice coverage has ended hope that the melting phase of the ice had ended after the extent of sea ice increased earlier in the week.

Lieser said that the switch from a sea ice maximum around Antarctica to its annual low was "one of the biggest natural cycles we see in the world" with as much as 90 percent of the ice being younger than a year old.

The new low marks a remarkable change from the winter of 2014, when the sea ice around Antarctica reached a record high.

Lieser said that ice around the continent began to thaw a month earlier than normal in 2016 due to rising minimum temperatures.

"(Sea ice) variability was typical of what we'd seen for the whole period (since 1979) but then along came 2016," Ian Simmons, a professor at The University of Melbourne's School of Earth Sciences, said.

"It's remarkable."

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