Amsterdam, Netherlands – Alarming preliminary new figures show Antarctic sea ice has likely hit a record low winter maximum, more than one million square kilometres (386,000 square miles) below the previous record set in 1986.[1] Although the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) says the preliminary figures may change slightly, from its current 16.96 million square kilometres, the expected maximum winter sea ice level is likely to be the lowest in 45 years of satellite records.

Dr Laura Meller, from the Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign, said:
“This alarming news about Antarctic winter sea ice shows us the damage wrought by climate change on one of the most fragile but crucial regions on Earth.

“This succession of broken records, after similarly historic heatwaves and wildfires all over the world, underlines that there is no time to waste. The only way to address the melting sea ice is to curb emissions and transition to a renewable energy system. We must support the ability of marine life, from tiny plankton to majestic whales, to store carbon by protecting at least 30% of the oceans by 2030. Governments’ actions must reflect this urgency when the Antarctic Ocean Commission meets in just a few weeks.

“The UN Ocean Treaty, signed by more than 80 countries, is a unique tool to fix the broken system of global ocean management, by protecting nature and the oceans’ ability to protect us from the climate crisis.”

Antarctic winter sea ice extent took a sharp downward turn from August 2016 in nearly all months and continuing to the more recent 2023 data, the downward trend may be linked to warming in the uppermost ocean layer caused by mixing with warmer water. The concern, according to scientists, is that this may be the beginning of a long-term trend of decline for Antarctic sea ice: oceans are warming globally and warm water mixing in the Southern Ocean polar layer could carry on, with unpredictable consequences for the important role the Southern Ocean and its sea ice play in the global energy balance.



[1] NSIDC preliminary figures: Antarctic sea ice hits record low maximum extent for 2023 | National Snow and Ice Data Center

Final figures and a full analysis on Antarctic sea ice will be released by NSIDC in early October.


Magali Rubino, Global media lead for Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign: [email protected], +33 7 78 41 78 78 (GMT+2)

Greenpeace International Press Desk: [email protected], +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)