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Antarctic sea ice change and variability - Physical and ecological implications

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 08:22 authored by Robert MassomRobert Massom, Stammerjohn, SE
Although Antarctic sea ice is undergoing a slight increase in overall extent, major regional changes are occurring in its spatio-temporal characteristics (most notably in sea ice seasonality). Biologically significant aspects of Antarctic sea ice are evaluated, emphasising the importance of scale and thermodynamics versus dynamics. Changing sea ice coverage is having major direct and indirect though regionally-dependent effects on ecosystem structure and function, with the most dramatic known effects to date occurring in the West Antarctic Peninsula region. There is mounting evidence that loss of sea ice has affected multiple levels of the marine food web in a complex fashion and has triggered cascading effects. Impacts on primary production, Antarctic krill, fish, marine mammals and birds are assessed, and are both negative and positive. The review includes recent analysis of change/variability in polynyas and fast ice, and also highlights the significance of extreme events (which have paradoxical impacts). Possible future scenarios are investigated in the light of the predicted decline in sea ice by 2100 e.g. increased storminess/waviness, numbers of icebergs and snowfall. Our current lack of knowledge on many aspects of sea ice-related change and biological response is emphasised.


Publication title

Polar Science








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies



Place of publication

The Netherlands

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Antarctic and Southern Ocean oceanic processes

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    University Of Tasmania