Jan 4, 2019

Antarctic ice melts to January record low

Antarctica
by
Doyle Rice
,
USA TODAY
Sea ice extent, January 1, 2019. Image: National Snow and Ice Data Center
Sea ice extent, January 1, 2019. Image: National Snow and Ice Data Center

The amount of sea ice around Antarctica has melted to a record low for January, scientists announced this week.

As of Jan. 1, there was 2.11 million square miles of sea ice around the continent, the smallest January area since records began in 1978, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Sea ice is frozen ocean water that melts each summer, then refreezes each winter. Antarctic sea ice is typically at its smallest in late February or early March, toward the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Specifically, the area of sea ice around Antarctica on Jan. 1 was 11,600 square miles below the previous record low for that date, set in 2017. It was 726,000 square miles below average – an area roughly twice the size of the state of Texas. 

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Sea ice loss – especially in the Arctic and less so in the Antarctic – is one of the clearest signals of global warming, the National Climate Assessment reported last year.