Record Antarctic sea ice in midst of record melting perplexes scientists

9 Oct 2014

The yellow line surrounding the Anarctic ice shelf represents the median extent of sea between 1981 and 2010. Image via NSIDC

Scientists are claiming news of the Antarctic experiencing a record amount of sea ice is a direct result of the ice on its landmass melting at an astounding rate.

In a post on the website, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded that as of 7 October, there were 20.11m sq kilometres of ice surrounding Antarctica.

This puts it well ahead of previous figures, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which also revealed the 20.11m sq kilometres is 1.54m sq kilometres larger than the average figures recorded between 1981 and 2010.

An animated image of the growing extent of Antarctic sea ice last September. Image via NSIDC/University of Bremen

Meanwhile, in the Arctic Circle, Arctic ice has shown similar rapid decline at a rate of 13.3pc per decade, losing a total of 9.89m sq kilometres between March and September this year.

However, this growth is still not totally understood, with the lead scientist at NSIDC, Ted Scambos, saying, “What we’re learning is, we have more to learn.”

This would initially appear rather confusing to the average person and scientists alike, as they try to find reasoning as to why growing temperatures could lead to a growth in ice levels in the Earth’s southern pole.

The dotted line represents the height of the extent of Antarctic sea ice in 2013. Image via NSDIC

The theory, climate scientists said, most likely lies in the fact the Antarctic’s landmass of 14m sq kilometres, all of which would be covered by snow and ice, is melting at a rapidly increasing rate.

This in itself could be expedited by changing wind patterns or from warmer ocean water reaching the continent’s coastline, causing it to freeze in the colder climate, according to the NSIDC.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic