Arctic sea ice likely reached its annual minimum extent on Sept. 19, making it the sixth-lowest year in the satellite record, according to the latest data NASA released on Monday, reported Xinhua.
Meanwhile, Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest maximum extent on record on Sept. 10 at a time when the ice cover should have been growing at a much faster pace during the darkest and coldest months, according to NASA.
Scientists track the seasonal and annual fluctuations because sea ice shapes Earth's polar ecosystems and plays a significant role in global climate.
Researchers at NASA and the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) use satellites to measure sea ice as it melts and refreezes. They track sea ice extent, which is defined as the total area of the ocean in which the ice cover fraction is at least 15 percent.
Between March and September 2023, the ice cover in the Arctic shrank from a peak area of 14.62 million square kilometers to 4.23 million square kilometers. The amount of sea ice lost was enough to cover the entire continental United States, according to NASA.
Sea ice around Antarctica reached its lowest winter maximum extent on Sept. 10 at 16.96 million square kilometers. That was 1.03 million square kilometers below the previous record-low reached in 1986, according to NASA.
"It's a record-smashing sea ice low in the Antarctic," said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NSIDC. "Sea ice growth appears low around nearly the whole continent as opposed to any one region."
Meier said the changes are a fundamental, decades-long response to warming temperatures.
- Arctic sea