Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches New Record Maximum
A new record high of sea ice has been observed surrounding Antarctica. The upward trend in the Antarctic, however, is only about a third of the magnitude of the rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Centre embark on the mission to understand the Polar Regions opposing responses to global warming.
Since the late 1970s, the Arctic has lost an average of 20,800 square miles (53,900 km2) of ice a year, causing ecological changes in both land and marine based ecosystems. The Antarctic however, has baffled scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre when on 19th September this year, they reported Antarctic sea ice extent exceeding 7.72 million square miles (20 million km2) for the first time since 1979.
Claire Parkinson, a senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, has referred to changes in sea ice coverage as a microcosm of global climate change.
“The planet as a whole is doing what was expected in terms of warming. Sea ice as a whole is decreasing as expected, but just like with global warming, not every location with sea ice will have a downward trend in ice extent,” explains Parkinson.
Scientists attempt to identify the various components which might explain the growth of sea ice in the region. For Antarctica, key variables include the atmospheric and oceanic conditions, as well as the effects of an icy land surface, changing atmospheric chemistry, the ozone hole, months of darkness and more.
“There hasn’t been one explanation yet that I’d say has become a consensus, where people say, ‘We’ve nailed it, this is why it’s happening,’” Parkinson said. “Our models are improving, but they’re far from perfect. One by one, scientists are figuring out that particular variables are more important than we thought years ago, and one by one those variables are getting incorporated into the models.”
The Arctic continues to decrease twice as fast as the Antarctic is increasing. Studying the relationship between both Polar Regions will act as an indicator for changes in climate we can expect worldwide.
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