Antarctica is a continent of ice. From the tallest summits to the deepest valleys, Antarctica is moved, shaped and defined by the ice that envelops it. There is more ice in Antarctica than every other glacier on earth combined.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet covers an area larger than the United States and Mexico combined. Its white surface acts as an enormous reflector, sending heat back to space and keeping the planet cool.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing ice. Net ice loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet is currently 100-200 billion tons per year, and has increased in the past two decades. The rate of loss is continuing to increase, with sea levels rising faster each year.
Antarctica’s ice shelves are shrinking. Every year for the past 25 years, Antarctic ice shelves have been losing mass. Many of them are becoming thinner, smaller and more vulnerable to sudden collapse on a large scale, with impacts that affect all of humanity.
Sea ice is a crucial component of our planet’s climate system, and one that is highly vulnerable to climate change and variability. Antarctic sea ice is also a critical habitat for marine life, including penguins and seals. Antarctic sea ice is changing, with impacts on Antarctic penguins and important global ocean currents.
Sea ice is more than just frozen ocean. Below the surface it is a vibrant ocean oasis, and a vital habitat for life in Antarctica. Billions of microscopic sea plants live underneath the ice, providing food for Antarctic krill and other small crustaceans, which form the foundation of the Antarctic food chain. The sea ice surface is also a critical breeding ground for emperor penguins.
In some parts of Antarctica, winter sea ice cover is declining dramatically. Reduced sea ice cover has a domino effect, impacting Antarctic ecosystems from tiny plants to penguins, seals and whales.