Antarctic sea ice

Icebergs drift in the Weddell Sea near Snow Hill Island, Antarctica.

(Photo: David Tipling/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

'No Time to Waste': Alarm as Antarctic Ice Hits Lowest January Level Ever Recorded

"These extreme temperatures remain a tangible indication of the effects of a changing climate for many regions," said one European climate official.

Less of the Antarctic Sea was covered by ice last month than in any January ever recorded, scientists said Wednesday while warning that melting sea ice is accelerating global heating.

The European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said analysis of satellite imagery showed Antarctic sea ice coverage was 31% below average last month, significantly lower than the previous January low mark set in 2017.

At the opposite end of the Earth, Arctic ice coverage was 4% below average and the third-lowest January level observed, the agency reported.

C3S also said last month was the third-warmest January ever recorded in Europe, with above-average air temperatures—including the Balkans and Eastern Europe—prevailing throughout much of the continent.

"While January 2023 is exceptional, these extreme temperatures remain a tangible indication of the effects of a changing climate for many regions and can be understood as an additional warning of future extreme events," C3S deputy director Samantha Burgess said in a statement. "It is imperative for global and regional stakeholders to take swift action to mitigate the rise in global temperatures."

Last month, a 600-square-mile iceberg—nearly the size of Greater London—broke off Antarctica's Brunt Ice Shelf, although scientists said the event was unrelated to climate change. January is summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Still, "while the decline in Antarctic sea ice extent is always steep at this time of year, it has been unusually rapid this year," scientists at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported last month, "and at the end of December, Antarctic sea ice extent stood at the lowest in the 45-year satellite record."

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