Antarctica: Disturbing Signs That Something Has Changed

The year the climate crisis finally arrived on the edge of the world. Will we do what it takes to mitigate the unavoidable runaway reaction ahead?

Ricky Lanusse
The Environment


Surface elevation of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from the Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (Source: An ancient river landscape preserved beneath the East Antarctic Ice Sheet)

Among the scientific world, there has always been this naive stance that Antarctica could be big and cold enough to be the planet’s last holdout from the climate crisis. Because Antarctica is five times the size of my country, Argentina, and about 10% of the Earth’s total land. And, to put into perspective just how much ice is there: if all of Antarctica’s ice were to melt, it would lead to 57 meters (187 feet) of sea-level rise, submerging entire cities and even countries worldwide.

So what happens down there matters a lot.

Historically, this ice has exhibited seasonal variations and was regarded as resilient to global warming. But 2023, becoming the hottest on record, will also be the year when the climate crisis certainly arrived in Antarctica. Because the distressing events have piled up in unprecedented ways:

  • In February, the sea ice surrounding the continent hit its lowest levels on record — easily beating the previous low set only a year earlier.
  • Reports from July 30th revealed that Antarctica has lost