Ice formation in Antarctica has reached its highest level this year and the maximum extent has not been this small since scientific records began, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in the US announced on Monday.

Sea ice melts in the summer and its formations recover in the winter.

As of Sept. 10, this year’s maximum ice extent in Antarctica was estimated at 16.96 million square kilometers, according to the NSIDC. This is a negative record since 1979, with a big difference from the previous one, it is underlined.

The maximum extent of the ice sheet was 1.03 million square kilometers smaller this year compared to the previous negative record. The loss is equivalent to an area twice the size of France.

In February, in the middle of the austral summer, the extent of ice in Antarctica reached its lowest level (1.79 million square kilometers). Since then, it has recovered at an unusually slow rate.

In the Arctic, where summer is ending, ice formation has also reached its lowest level this year and is estimated at 4.23 million square kilometers. This is the sixth lowest record since 1979, the NSIDC points out.

Since August 2016, the shrinking of the maximum annual extent of the Antarctic sea ice is increasingly significant, experts explain.

The white ice sheet in the two polar circles reflects the Sun’s rays more than the ocean. As a result, its shrinkage exacerbates global warming, while causing ocean levels to rise.