WASHINGTON: The extent of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic last month was the lowest on record for January, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said on Friday, while concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record level.
“The missing ice in both poles has been quite extraordinary,” David Carlson, Director of the World Climate Research Programme, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.
In 2012, Antarctic sea ice actually hit a record monthly high, with scientists theorizing that melting ice shelves were contributing to the growth. Since then, further evidence of Southern Hemisphere ice melt has accumulated, with recent dramatic photos showing aerial views of western Antarctic ice scored with cracks.
Melting ice at the Earth’s poles is yet another indicator of global warming and causes concern about attendant sea-level rise and other climate impacts. Though the timing and extent of those impacts are a matter of scientific debate, the trends lend urgency to countries’ efforts to curb the greenhouse gas emissions from coal and other fossil fuels that are contributing to a warmer climate.
NSIDC Director Mark Serreze told Reuters that the new numbers were preliminary and still needed to be confirmed, but that “unless something funny happens, we’re looking at a record minimum in Antarctica.”
The NSIDC reported at the end of last year that both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice had hit record monthly lows in November: “For the globe as a whole, sea ice cover was exceptionally low,” it said.