Every year, Antarctica’s frozen ocean water melts during the spring and summer. As the temperatures drop in the autumn and winter, the ice cover grows again and reaches its maximum yearly extent.
Researchers have been continuously measuring Antarctica sea ice since 1979. Using latest satellite data, they have found a total 2.15 million square kilometers ice cover surrounding the continent during the lowest point in February this summer season. It is slightly larger than the previous minimum extent of 2.07 million square kilometers that occurred in March 2017.
Last year, Antarctic sea ice numbers were almost at their lowest. Total polar sea ice covered 18.05 million square miles last year, which is the near record-lows for the wintertime maximum sea ice cover.
“Since August 2016, the sea ice coverage has been tracking well below the long-term average," Bureau of Meteorology Antarctic scientist Phil Reid said in a statement.
“In 2017, the winter maximum sea ice extent was the second lowest on record at 18.05 kilometers following closely on the heels of successive record highs of successive record highs in 2012, 2013 and 2014."
The ice sheet in Antarctica has not always remained stable. In fact, it has gone through drastic changes in the past few years. Only three years ago, ice levels hit a record high of more than 20 million square kilometers, but the situation is different now. Overall, the increasing trend in Arctic sea ice is about 1.7 percent each decade since 1979.