Recently, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report says that Antarctic sea ice cover recorded a low for a second consecutive year while the Arctic sea ice extent is also at an all-time minimum.
Findings of the report:
Sea ice levels in Antarctica shrunk to the lowest on record in February 2023 for the second consecutive year.
Sea ice extent is the area of ice spread across the Arctic Ocean at any given time.
Arctic ice is warming more than twice compared of average global warming, causing it to retreat dramatically over 45 years.
Scientists are yet to determine whether the occurrence resulted from natural weather fluctuation or the long-term melting trend due to climate change is to be blamed for the same.
Ice extent in Numbers:
The September 2022 extent was 4.87 million km2 or 1.54 million below the long-term mean extent.
Antarctic sea-ice extent dropped to 1.92 million km2 on 25 February, the lowest level on record and almost 1 million km2 below the long-term average.
About the Poles:
The Arctic region:
The Arctic is a polar region located in the northernmost part of Earth.
Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover.
It consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden.
Antarctica is the world's southernmost continent.
It contains the geographic South Pole, which is located almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle and surrounded by the Southern Ocean.
Significance of the ice at poles:
Radiate Solar heat: The sea ice bounces sunlight back into space thus maintaining the heat budget.
To maintain temperature: Radiating sunlight back into space by the sea ice plays a crucial role in maintaining ocean and air temperatures, which is important for the survival of life.
Influence weather conditions: The ice spread influences the global, regional and local weather conditions and vice versa.
Factors responsible for Ice melt events:
Changes in the amount of air pollution coming from Europe and natural multi-decade climate variations likely play a role.
But human-caused global warming is the underlying reason that the Arctic, and the planet as a whole, are heating up.
The Arctic Circle is mostly ocean, which used to be frozen for most or all of the year.
But permanent sea ice is steadily shrinking, and seasonal ice is melting earlier in the year and re-forming later.
That means more open water. But while ice is bright and reflects heat from the sun, water is darker and absorbs it.
That heat helps melt more ice, which means more water to trap more heat – the loop feeds on itself, accelerating warming in the Arctic.
This feedback loop is largely responsible for what is known as Arctic amplification.
Effect on Arctic and Antarctica:
Indigenous peoples in both the Arctic and mountain regions have been among the earliest affected.
What is the impact on India?
Effect on Monsoon: In recent years, scientists have pondered over the impact the changing Arctic can have on the monsoons in the subcontinent.
The link between the two is growing in importance due to the extreme weather events the country faces, and the heavy reliance on rainfall for water and food security.
Sea level rise: According to the World Meteorological Organization’s report, ‘State of Global Climate in 2021’, sea level along the Indian coast is rising faster than the global average rate.
One of the primary reasons for this rise is the melting of sea ice in the Polar Regions, especially the Arctic.