Record Low Antarctic Sea Ice Extent in 2023

Last month, the amount of sea ice around Antarctic broke a new record low, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center. This year’s minimum extent is the lowest recorded since 1979, and it broke the previous record low set just last year.

This graph shows Antarctic annual sea ice minimum extent, depicted as black diamonds, from 1979 to 2023, based on a 5-day running average of daily extent. The linear trend line is in blue with a 1.0 percent per decade downward trend, which is not statistically significant. A five-year running average is shown in red. Credit: W. Meier, NSIDC

Following the low, and the peak of austral summer, the sea ice around Antarctica has now begun its seasonal expansion again.

But the impacts of this year’s record low, and its implications for the future are key questions Antarctic researchers are trying to figure out. At PAL LTER, we are trying to figure out how these trends are affecting the ocean and coastal ecosystems along the West Antarctic Peninsula and the Palmer Station region.

In response to this news, PAL Co-PI Cross Moffat was quoted in a recent CNN article, Antarctic sea ice hit record lows again. Scientists wonder if it’s ‘the beginning of the end’

Carlos Moffat, an oceanographer at the University of Delaware, who has just returned from a research trip to the Antarctic Peninsula, told CNN that the low sea ice and very warm ocean temperatures they found “are dramatically different from what we have observed in the last few decades.”

Moffat, who visits the region every summer as part of the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research, said: “This year’s conditions are against a backdrop of long-term change in this region of Antarctica.”

In related coverage, The Guardian also highlighted the news in ‘Everyone should be concerned’: Antarctic sea ice reaches lowest levels ever recorded.