Our rapidly warming planet has melted a chunk of sea ice the size of India, according to climate scientists. What’s more, the sea ice near Antarctica has started melting, too, after years of expanding despite global warming.
Climate skeptics once loved to argue that the growing Antarctic sea ice proved that climate change was a hoax, even as scientists freaked out over the unexpectedly bleak numbers. But now the ice is melting at both poles, and ice levels in both areas are at record lows.
By early December, the total area of polar sea ice was 1.48 million square miles below the average for 1981–2010, according to satellite measurements from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. That’s about the size of India. Specifically, ice around Antarctica is now only 4.33 million square miles. This is the lowest ever — and the second lowest was all the way back in 1982.
John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey told Reuters that cold westerly winds, which might buffer us from the effects of climate change, were particularly weak this year. Without their chilling effect, more heat might have gone south to melt the Antarctic ice. But it’s hard to pinpoint just one reason for the melting. Growing greenhouse emissions and El Niño are probably also to blame.
Luckily, the landmark Paris Accords, which commit almost every country to lowering their greenhouse gas emissions, have already gone into effect. But it’s not enough. Even if President-elect Donald Trump doesn’t go through with his vow to pull out of the accords, several reports suggest that even with the accords, our best efforts might not be enough to save the planet.