Low ice level in Antarctica would be “very unlikely” without global warming

London – The low ice levels in Antarctica recorded in 2023, which set records, would have been “extremely unlikely” without the influence of climate change, according to a study by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

The research, published in the journal 'Geophysical Research Letter', showed that last year the Antarctic sea ice recorded historically low levels, with two million square kilometers less ice than normal in winter, an area equivalent to ten times the United Kingdom.

The reduction also comes after the ice extent in Antarctica experienced decades of growth until 2015, when it suddenly began to fall.

BAS scientists used 18 different climate models to try to understand ice reduction and its possible connection to climate change.

In a statement, the study's lead author, Rachel Diamond, explained that although climate change had made this low ice level possible, it was still an absolutely exceptional phenomenon.

“According to models, this record-breaking minimum extent of sea ice would be a one-in-2000 event without climate change. This tells us that what happened was very extreme,” he noted.

For co-author Caroline Holmes, climate change makes the Antarctic ice sheet four times more likely to contract in such a way, indicating that warming most likely had a hand in this phenomenon.

The researchers also investigated how sea ice recovers after having retreated so significantly, and found that after a similar loss not all of the ice returns, even after 20 years.

This suggests that recent years could mark a lasting regime change in the Southern Ocean.

“The impact of Antarctic sea ice remaining low for more than 20 years would be profound, including on local and global meteorology and on the ocean's unique ecosystems, including whales and penguins,” said another co-author of the study, Louise Sime. .

Satellite records of Antarctic ice began at the end of 1978, and between then and 2015 its extent grew slightly and progressively.