Record Growth in Antarctic Sea Ice Continues

Levels of Antarctic sea ice have hit a record high, despite climate change predictions suggesting it should be in decline.

The Mail on Sunday reports that the U.S.'s National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), which is funded by Nasa, says that ice around the continent is currently covering about 16 million square kilometres (six million square miles), more than 2.1 million sq km more than is expected at this time of year.

This is by far the highest level of sea ice since satellite monitoring began in 1979, and is statistically hugely significant: it means that although Arctic ice has decreased, the huge increase around Antarctica has brought the combined total of ice currently around both poles to a million square kilometres more than average.

It also means an area the size of Greenland that should be open water is now frozen.

The NSIDC had already reported in May that Antarctic ice was at record levels, with April’s levels surpassing the record set in 2008. The latest data shows that record growth is continuing while the southern winter progresses.

Although some scientists say that the increase in sea ice is itself caused by global warming, Professor Judith Curry, head of climate science at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said their arguments are not convincing.

“We do not have a quantitative, predictive understanding of the rise in Antarctic sea ice extent,” she said, adding that it was becoming increasing apparent that polar ice levels are dependent on long-term cycles in ocean temperature – and that the decline in Arctic ice may be about to reverse.

She also said that climate scientists have become increasingly reliant on decreases in Arctic sea ice as evidence of global warming, since average global temperatures have not risen for 16 years. They have not, however, considered evidence from both poles.

Last December, a ship carrying climate scientists got stuck in an ice pack about 1,500 miles south of Tasmania. Getting stuck in record ice cover was especially ironic, given they intended to document how ice had decreased thanks to global warming.


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