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Antarctic ice levels see ‘massive decrease,’ global climate researcher says

The World Meteorological Organization says Antarctic sea ice levels last month — the hottest June ever recorded — were at their lowest since satellite observations began.

Ice levels hit record low in June, World Meteorological Organization reports

A seal lays on sea ice in the Antarctic.

Antarctic sea ice levels reached record lows last month, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Monday, a development climate change experts described as worrisome.

WMO said that Antarctic sea ice levels last month — the hottest June ever recorded — were at their lowest since satellite observations began, at 17 per cent below average.

"We're used to seeing these big reductions in sea ice in the Arctic, but not in the Antarctic. This is a massive decrease," Michael Sparrow, the head of WMO's climate research division, told reporters in Geneva.

The WMO said Arctic sea ice levels were slightly below average, but well above the June values from the past eight years.

Global sea surface temperatures were at record highs for the time of year in May and June, according to WMO, which warned that the warming of the world's oceans was spreading fast beyond their surface.

"It is not only the surface temperature, but the whole ocean is becoming warmer and absorbing energy that will remain there for hundreds of years," WMO said. "Alarm bells are ringing especially loudly because of the unprecedented sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic."

The organization said that the El Niño weather pattern, which recently emerged, was expected to increase temperatures both on land and in the oceans, which could lead to more marine heat waves and extreme temperatures.

The WMO also reported that June was drier than average over much of North America, conditions that "favoured and sustained severe wildfires."

It was also drier in Russia, the Horn of Africa, most of southern Africa, South America and regions of Australia, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Conversely, it was wetter than average over most of southern Europe, western Iceland and northwestern Russia, the WMO said.

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