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Antarctic sea ice hits record low coverage area, new data show

Sea ice that covers the ocean around Antarctica hit a record low surface area in the winter, a preliminary analysis of US satellite data shows, and scientists fear the impact of climate change is increasing at the southern pole.

As the southern hemisphere transitions into spring, Antarctic sea ice had reached only a maximum size of 16.96 million sq km (6.55 million sq miles) by September 10, the US space agency, NASA, and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said on Monday.

In February, at the height of the austral summer, the Antarctic sea ice pack had reached a minimum extent of 1.79 million sq km (more than 691,000 sq miles), also a record, according to the NSIDC.

The ice pack then grew back at an unusually slow pace despite the onset of winter. Meier said the growth in sea ice appeared “low around nearly the whole continent as opposed to any one region”.

While the Arctic has been hit hard by climate change over the past decade with sea ice rapidly deteriorating as the northern region warms four times faster than the global average, it has been less certain how warming temperatures are impacting sea ice near the South Pole.

For several decades, the Antarctic sea ice pack had remained stable, even expanding slightly from 2007 to 2016. But “since August 2016, the Antarctic sea ice extent trend took a sharp downturn across nearly all months,” the NSIDC said.

– aljazeera