There has never been so little ice in Antarctica in January, according to data from the European monitoring service, Copernicus.
Compared to the average for January, the continent lost more than 31% of its surface area last month. This breaks the last record, set in January 2017, according to Copernicus, which used satellite data to draw its conclusions.
It is now summer in Antarctica and more ice is expected to melt in February. Based on statistics for individual months of the year, February 2017 had the smallest ice extent ever observed in Antarctica. However, this record was almost broken last year.
Some 3.8 million square kilometres (km2) of ice remain in Antartica. This is 1.7 million km2 less than the average for 1991 to 2020.
Moreover, the ice at the South Pole is highly fragmented, according to Copernicus.
The monitoring service also looked at the North Pole. The total area of ice there in January was 4% less than average, making it the third lowest January in terms of the ice extent.
All these findings are a consequence of global warming and too many greenhouse gas emissions.
Polar ice reflects sunlight and helps limit global warming. It also acts as a buffer for the land ice at both poles of the planet. If this land ice were to melt, sea levels would rise and further threaten several seaboards.