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Study Reveals Unprecedented Hindrance in Antarctic Ice Expansion

Antarctica: A groundbreaking study led by Dr. Babula Jena and his team from the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey, United Kingdom, has shed light on the unprecedented hindrance in Antarctic ice expansion and ice retreat ahead of the annual ice maximum in 2023.

In the wake of global warming, the Arctic has witnessed a significant loss of sea ice over the past decade. Conversely, the Antarctic experienced a moderate increase in sea ice until 2015, followed by a sudden decrease since 2016. This decline culminated in extremely low sea ice conditions during each summer from 2016 to 2023, with 2023 witnessing unprecedented slow ice expansion or retreat.

The study, published recently, highlights the conditions that led to this anomaly. Excessive upper-ocean heat was identified as a key factor contributing to the reduction in ice expansion in 2023. However, significant atmospheric circulation changes also played a crucial role.

Of particular note were the changes in wind patterns, including the deepening of the Amundsen Sea Low and its eastward shift, resulting in strong northerly flows across the Weddell Sea. This, in turn, led to record atmospheric warming and forced the ice-edge to remain southward from its usual position. Similar rapid changes in ice extent were observed in the Ross Sea, attributed to the record strengthening of an atmospheric block that gave rise to strong northerly winds off the Ross Ice Shelf.

The study underscores the complex interplay of various factors, including ocean-atmospheric warming, changes in winds, heat fluxes, extreme winds, and high ocean waves associated with polar cyclones. These factors collectively contributed to the record low ice conditions in Antarctica, with cyclones causing episodes of exceptional slow ice expansion or retreat.

The implications of these findings are far-reaching, with potential impacts on global warming amplification, the Southern Ocean ecosystem, ocean circulation, ice shelf stability, and sea level rise.

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