Antarctica is made up of ice 4.8 kilometres thick, which contains 90% of the world’s fresh water. If it were all to melt, experts say sea levels would rise by 60 metres. Temperatures in Antarctica have reached a record high, hitting an unprecedented 17.5C (March 2017)  link.  Antarctica is an enormous frozen continent that covers about 20% of the southern hemisphere. It is the driest, windiest continent on Earth, covered by ice that can reach 4km deep. Antarctica is today losing more than 200 billion tons of ice per year. 


  • General information
  • Larsen-C ice shelf
  • Ice loss
  • Warming from below
  •  . . .  and penguins

Page on the Arctic
Page on Greenland
Page on Glaciers

  General information

The West coast of the Peninsula is warming at a rate 2 or 3 times faster than the global average. The average annual temperature of this region has increased about 2.5C in the last 50 years. However, data on temperatures in Antarctica only really go back about 50 years, anything beyond that is surmised from ice cores or other sources and so we don’t really know how the temperatures vary over even the medium term in Antarctica. The Antarctic Peninsula also represents only about 4% of the whole continent, the other 96% appears to have had a stable temperature over the last 40 years to the extent where the most remarkable aspect is the stability compared to other parts of the world. link   

June 2018: Thaw of Antarctic ice lifts up land, might slow sea level rise. Antarctica’s bedrock is rising surprisingly fast as a vast mass of ice melts into the oceans, a trend that might slow an ascent in sea levels caused by global warming, scientists said on Thursday. However, the process could to be too slow to save the ice sheet from a possible collapse triggered by global warming. link

April  2018: UK, US launch biggest-ever study of Antarctic. The programme, billed as “the most detailed and extensive examinations of a massive Antarctic glacier ever undertaken” will gauge how quickly the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica could collapse. The five-year venture, called the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, is the largest joint project undertaken by the two countries in Antarctica for more than 70 years. According to NASA, Antarctica lost 125 gigatonnes of ice annually between 2002 and 2016. link

August 2017: World’s largest volcanic range may lurk beneath Antarctic ice. West Antarctica’s vast ice sheet conceals what may be the largest volcanic region on earth, research has revealed. The continent’s ice covers more than 90 discovered previously unknown volcanoes which range in height from 100 to 3850 metres. The peaks are concentrated in a region known as the West Antarctic Rift System, spanning 3,500 kilometres from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf to the Antarctic Peninsula. Volcanic activity may increase if Antarctica’s ice thins, which is likely in a warming climate, scientists say. link

March 2017: Antarctic ice has set an unexpected record. Still waiting for the final numbers, but it is abundantly clear that the sea ice ringing the Antarctic continent has fallen precipitously reaching a record low. In 38 years of records dating back to 1979, the sea ice lows seen as of the end of February 2017, a time of year when ice in the Antarctic is at its annual minimum,  are unprecedented. The area of ocean covered by sea ice still appears to be shrinking, but as of Feb. 28, there were just 2.131 million square kilometers of floating ice surrounding Antarctica, according to data provided by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. link

October 2016: Antarctic glacier biggest threat to rising sea levels. The glacier in question, named Thwaites, is a linchpin of the West Antarctic ice sheet. It is larger than Pennsylvania and presents a 75-mile-long front to the ocean, in this case the Amundsen Sea. Recent studies have suggested that warm waters at extreme depths are causing a major glacial retreat that could be “unstoppable,” in the words of NASA. link

August 2009: One of the largest glaciers in Antarctica is thinning four times faster than it was 10 years ago – link

 Larsen C ice shelf

July 2017: Five things to know about the trillion tonne iceberg. The collapse of the Larsen C will not lead to significant sea-level rise, but it could be a signal that other major changes are on the way. link  

January 2017: Biggest ever ice-shelf about to break off. A vast iceberg with an area almost the size of Delaware is poised to break off Antarctica. Ice shelves are areas of ice floating on the sea, several hundred metres thick, at the end of glaciers. A rift, slowly developing across the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula in recent years, expanded abruptly last month – it is now more than 80 km long with just 20 km left before it snaps, scientists said. link   
Larsen B ice-shelf.
 Ice shelves themselves do not contribute directly to sea level rise because they are floating on the ocean and they already displace the same volume of water. But when the ice shelves collapse the glaciers that feed them speed up and get thinner, so they supply more ice to the oceans. Study on Larsen B

July 2017: Scientists know how big the Larsen C iceberg will be. Information now shows the iceberg will average about 625 feet in thickness, and with surface area of 2,550 square miles, will contain roughly 277 cubic meters of ice. Its size is equivalent to covering all 50 U.S. states to a thickness of 4.6 inches. The iceberg-to-be represents approximately 10% of the ice shelf’s area, and could accelerate the rate of sea-level rise by unleashing a torrent of ice currently clinging to the Antarctic Peninsula. link  

 Ice  loss

June 2018: Antarctic ice melting faster than ever. A report led by scientists in the UK and US found the rate of melting from the Antarctic ice sheet has accelerated threefold in the last five years and is now vanishing faster than at any previously recorded time. The study shows that before 2012, the Antarctic lost ice at a steady rate of 76 billion tonnes per year – a 0.2mm per year contribution to sea-level rise. However since then there has been a sharp increase, resulting in the loss of 219 billion tonnes of ice per year – a 0.6mm per year sea-level contribution. link

June 2016: Long overlooked area of Antarctica sees major ice loss. Over the past few years, the evidence has piled up that glaciers in parts of Antarctica have been melting and retreating at an increasingly worrying, and potentially unstoppable, pace. Now, new research shows that glaciers in a region of West Antarctica that has received relatively little attention to date have lost a considerable amount of ice. And that ice melt and retreat has been going on for decades, longer than previously thought. link

May 2016: Antarctic ‘sleeping giant’ glacier may lift sea levels two metres. The rapidly melting Totten Glacier (roughly the size of France) in East Antarctica is on track to lift oceans at least two metres, and could soon pass a “tipping point” of no return say researchers. To date, scientists have mostly worried about the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets as dangerous drivers of sea level rise. But the new study has identified a third major threat to hundreds of millions of people living in coastal areas around the world. link

February 2016: Another troubling fact about Antarctica’s ice. In a new study, researchers provide a new way of looking at how vulnerable Antarctica’s ice is, and it largely reinforces the conclusions of prior studies. To understand the new research, you first have to understand a truly astonishing feature of Antarctica that is virtually without rival anywhere else – it is ringed with gigantic ice shelves. These are sometimes country-sized sheets of ice extending out over the surface of the ocean and floating on top of it. link

May 2014: West Antarctica ice sheet collapse will change world’s coastline. The sea level rise caused by west Antarctica collapsing will change the coastline of the whole world. It’s long been known there’s this potential threat. But until now, it wasn’t clear if the ice sheet there was genuinely unstable. They’re talking about a whole extra chunk of sea level rise which wasn’t included in the recent IPCC report, and if you take the higher numbers here it doubles previous sea level rise expectations. link

November 2012: Ice loss study definitive. More than 4 trillion tonnes of ice from Greenland and Antarctica has melted in the past 20 years and flowed into the oceans, pushing up sea levels, according to a study that provides the best measure to date of the effect climate change is having on the earth’s biggest ice sheets. The study shows the melting of the two giant ice sheets has caused the seas to rise by more than 11mm in 20 years. It also found Greenland is losing ice mass at five times the rate of the early 1990s. link

September 2012: Climate Central reports sea ice around Antarctica is growing (while ice sheets melt accelerates). The overall extent of Antarctic ice has grown by about 1% per decade on average, since satellite records began a little over 30 years ago. The 1% growth per decade in the Antarctic pales next to the much faster 15.5% drop per decade in the Arctic. They aren’t even in the same ballpark. Not only that: while the sea ice bordering Antarctica has been growing slightly, the massive ice sheets that sit directly atop the frozen continent are shrinking at an accelerating rate, with worrisome implications for global sea level rise. link

 Warming from below

May 2018: Giant canyons discovered in Antarctica. Scientists have discovered three vast canyons in one of the last places to be explored on Earth – under the ice at the South Pole. If Antarctica thins in a warming climate, as scientists suspect it will, then these channels could accelerate mass towards the ocean, further raising sea-levels. The deep troughs run for hundreds of kilometres, cutting through tall mountains, none of which are visible at the snowy surface of the continent. link

April 2018: Warm ocean water is melting Antarctica from below, destabilising its ice sheets and contributing to sea level rise. A new study has used satellite data to determine how much underwater ice is melting, allowing researchers to map the retreat of the “grounding lines”, where large floating ice shelves connect to the layer of bedrock underneath Antarctica. These shelves can be particularly vulnerable to collapse as sea water melts them from beneath. The most alarming change was seen in West Antarctica, where over a fifth of the entire ice sheet had retreated rapidly across the sea floor – outpacing the rate of overall melting above. link

January 2018: Antarctica is melting from below – and it’s getting worse. Based on 23 years of satellite data from the West Antarctic ice shelves, the study published in Nature Geoscience revealed that a strong El Niño event causes the shelves to lose more ice from melting beneath than they gain back from snowfall on top of it. link

August 2012: Antarctic may host methane stores. A vast reservoir of the potent greenhouse gas methane, that could amount to 4 billion tonnes, may be locked beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, a study suggests. The gas could be released into the atmosphere if enough of the ice melts away, adding to global warming. Research indicates that ancient deposits of organic matter may have been converted to methane by microbes living in low-oxygen conditions. The organic material dates back to a period 35m years ago when the Antarctic was much warmer than it is today and teeming with life. link


Decline of penguins in Antarctica linked with climate change. There has been a major decline in Antarctic penguin population. About 150,000 penguins have perished in Antarctica after a huge iceberg cut off their access to the sea, forcing them to trek dozens of kilometers to find food. Scientists warn the birds could be gone within 20 years. Since 2011, the Adelie population at Cape Denison has shrunk from 160,000 to just 10,000, the scientists wrote in their paper, published in the journal Antarctic Science. Further, they warned, the penguins could disappear altogether within 20 years unless something changes. link

July 2018: World’s biggest king penguin colony shrinks 90% – link

August 2016: New research shows penguins will suffer in a warming world – link