Sea ice at both poles hit record lows in 2023, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder.
In the Antarctic, sea ice reached its maximum extent on September 10, at 16.96 million square kilometers (6.55 million square miles). This is the lowest maximum extent in the 45-year satellite record, and more than one million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) below the previous record low set in 1986.
Antarctic sea ice has likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 16.96 million square kilometers (6.55 million square miles) on September 10, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The 2023 maximum is the lowest in the 45-year satellite record. It is more than one million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) below the previous record low maximum extent, set in 1986.
NSIDC scientists stress that the Antarctic sea ice extent number is preliminary—continued winter conditions could still push the ice extent higher.
In the Arctic, sea ice reached its minimum extent on September 17, at 5.02 million square kilometers (1.94 million square miles). This is the sixth lowest minimum extent in the satellite record.
Arctic sea ice has likely reached its minimum extent for the year, at 4.23 million square kilometers (1.63 million square miles) on September 19, 2023, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The 2023 minimum is ranked sixth lowest in the nearly 45-year satellite record. The last 17 annual minimum extents are the lowest 17 in the satellite record.
NSIDC scientists stress that the Arctic sea ice extent number is preliminary—continued melt conditions could still push the ice extent lower.
NSIDC is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder. The NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis is supported in part by NASA.
The decline in sea ice is caused by climate change. As the Earth’s atmosphere warms, it causes sea ice to melt. Sea ice loss has a number of negative impacts, including:
- Rising sea levels: As sea ice melts, it contributes to rising sea levels, which can inundate coastal communities and ecosystems.
- Increased coastal erosion: Sea ice loss also exposes coastal areas to increased erosion from waves and storms.
- Disruption of marine ecosystems: Sea ice is important habitat for many marine species, including polar bears, seals, and walruses. Sea ice loss is disrupting these ecosystems and making it difficult for these species to survive.
- Feedback loops: Sea ice loss also leads to feedback loops that accelerate climate change. For example, as sea ice melts, it exposes darker ocean water, which absorbs more heat from the sun. This additional heat further accelerates sea ice melting.
The record low sea ice extents in 2023 are a warning sign about the urgency of addressing climate change. We need to take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent further sea ice loss.
What can we do to address climate change and protect sea ice?
Here are some things that we can do to address climate change and protect sea ice:
- Reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy sources.
- Improve energy efficiency in our homes and businesses.
- Eat less meat and more plant-based foods.
- Drive less and walk, bike, or take public transportation more often.
- Support policies that promote climate action.
By taking these steps, we can help to protect our planet and the future of sea ice.