The intensity of the El Niño phenomenon will cause the irreversible melting of Antarctica

A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change warned that the warming of the deep seas will accelerate the melting of the ice caps of the white continent

The strong and increasing changes as a result of the climate crisis in the El Niño phenomenon, which causes warmer environmental conditions, could cause an irreversible melting of the ice shelves and ice sheets in Antarctica, said a study led by Australian scientists published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

After analyzing 31 climate models, research by the Australian Government Science Agency (CSIRO) concluded that increasing changes in “El Niño” would translate into a decrease in surface water temperatures and an increase in the temperature of the submarine waters in the white continent.

The researchers highlighted that this new analysis is key to understanding how the climate crisis will affect Antarctica. “This new research shows that a more intense El Niño event can accelerate the warming of the deep waters of the Antarctic shelf, causing the ice shelves and ice sheets to melt faster,” explained Wenju Cai, lead author of this research. by Chinese and Australian experts, in a CSIRO statement.

What is the El Niño phenomenon?
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) explains that El Niño is a natural phenomenon characterized by fluctuating ocean temperatures in the central and eastern part of the equatorial Pacific, associated with changes in the atmosphere. This phenomenon has a great influence on the climatic conditions in various parts of the world.

El Niño and La Niña, which respectively cause warm and cold conditions, are part of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a phenomenon related to ocean surface temperature, atmosphere, and pressure and which has a huge impact on the climate. “Climate change is expected to increase the magnitude of ENSO, making both El Niño and La Niña stronger,” stressed the lead researcher. However, the research indicated that increased ENSO variability slows down the strength of westerly winds across the Antarctic shelf.

As a consequence of this lower intensity of the winds, the movement of the waters can be reduced, which means that the warm waters of the depths cannot emerge, according to the statement issued by the Australian agency. “Warming around the edges of floating sea ice slows down during this process, slowing the melting of sea ice near the surface,” Wenjui Cai said.

Sea ice is at an all-time low
The latest survey of the United States National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) revealed that the extent of Antarctic sea ice reached a new all-time low, after it fell on February 13. to 1.91 million square kilometers.

On that date, the levels fell below the previous record – on February 25, 2022 – located at 1.92 million square kilometers. As noted by the NSIDC, the ice extent has been well below last year’s melt rates for at least two months.

In this way, 2023 is the second consecutive year in which this indicator falls below 2 million square kilometers.