Geneva, Sep 30 (IPS).- The ice on the polar caps reduces and increases the risk to the lives of species, such as the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), which at the current rate of global warming is on the verge of extinction in a few decades. , warned the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in its latest report.
The prediction is based on an analysis of 2022 satellite images of the central and eastern Bellingshausen Sea, west of the Antarctic Peninsula, which show that there is no ice on the breeding grounds long before the chicks develop feathers.
This will result in the death of all chicks in four out of five known emperor penguin colonies, according to the British Antarctic Survey.
Their findings support predictions that more than 90% of emperor penguin colonies are on the verge of extinction by the end of the century, based on current global warming trends.
Omar Baddour, head of climate monitoring at the WMO, said of the report that “the reduction of Antarctic sea ice this year is truly remarkable.”
“What happens in Antarctica and the Arctic will affect the whole planet,” and the WMO confirms that “there is growing concern about the rapid changes in the cryosphere (the surface of the earth where water is in a solid state): the melting ice of the seas, ice sheets and glaciers,” Baddour added.
Antarctic ice extent in the southern winter of 2023 is at its lowest point since satellite records were recorded, surpassing by a wide margin the previous minimum on this remote part of the planet, which was 14 million square kilometers, around. the South Pole.
In addition, the average monthly sea ice extent was the lowest recorded since 1945 in January, February, May, June, July and August 2023.
According to preliminary data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, the maximum extent remained below 17 million square kilometers for the first time since 1979.
This is one million square kilometers below the previous record low of 2022, an area larger than the size of Egypt.
This ice loss is associated with unusually warm sea surface temperatures across the Southern Ocean, as well as warmer temperatures in the upper atmosphere over much of East Antarctica.
According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, which cooperates with the WMO, “this is an exceptionally extreme event.”
Scientists from the WMO Global Cryosphere Monitoring are investigating whether this is part of the normal variability of the windswept continental environment, or whether it is the beginning of a worrying new situation. which is the result of excess greenhouse gases, greenhouse in the atmosphere and oceans.
The report notes that the vast expanse of glacial ice in Antarctica and the sea ice sheet that surrounds it are important in regulating the climate, because they reflect solar energy into the atmosphere and space.
Instead, the dark surface of the ocean absorbs most of the sun’s energy. So less sea ice contributes to rising temperatures, triggering a vicious cycle.
“The lack of sea ice in Antarctica in 2023 will have a direct impact on the climate and ecosystems, both near and far, even at low latitudes, where the majority of the human population lives,” insists Petra Heil, an expert , in WMO Cryosphere Monitoring. .