Antarctica Sea Ice Reaches Record High: Doesn’t Refute Global Warming

Antarctic sea ice is expanding but does not refute warming
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the Antarctic sea ice has recently broken records.

According to recent data published by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), situated in Boulder, Colorado, the sea ice levels around the Antarctica reached a record high in August. In spite of this result, global warming scientists argue that these findings do not refute global warming or mankind’s impact on climate change.

National Snow and Ice Data Center Findings

With the area of the sea ice reaching 7.2 million square miles, this represented an increase in 4.5 percent over the average, recorded between 1981 and 2010.

Sea ice in the Antarctica is Expanding
Antarctic sea ice extent (Credit: NSIDC)

With September marking the end of the Antarctica’s winter, experts believe that the ice pack will have expanded even further during this month. The last record was broken during September of 2012. According to the NSIDC report, the Antarctica sea ice was determined to be 7.53 million square miles by Sept. 14, 2013, smashing the previous year’s record (7.51 million square miles).

Climatologists have focused much of their attention upon the ice melting within the Arctic; in the Antarctic, meanwhile, there remains greater uncertainty. Scientists have struggled to explain these findings, resulting in climate change skeptics suggesting that global warming is not fully understood.

It is suggested that various factors come into play when investigating the growth of the Antarctic sea ice. As the Antarctic sea ice surrounds a frozen continent, prevailing wings and warming air temperatures both have an impact upon ice expansion, as does the ozone layer.

The Polar Vortex and Antarctic Ice Expansion

Jinlun Zhang, an oceanographer at the University of Washington, and author of another study, questioned why the ice was expanding when the Southern Ocean was continuing to warm. He asked, under these circumstances, “why would sea ice be increasing?

Zhang’s data is based upon new modeling system, the details of which are due for publication in the Journal of Climate.

According to Zhang’s findings, he suggests that 80 percent of the increase in the Antarctic’s sea ice volume could be attributed to the polar vortex that circles the South Pole.

Ice convergence and wind speed with time
Ice and wind convergence changes from 1979 to 2011 (Credit: Zhang, 2013)

Since record keeping commenced, during the 1970s, the polar vortex was much weaker than it is currently. In addition, it demonstrates more convergence, with the strong winds pushing the ice masses together, causing ridge ice production; in turn, this ridging “… contributes to an increase in the volume of thick ice.

The thicker ice lasts longer, whilst exposing its engulfing waters to cold winds, thereby prompting further ice expansion.

Axel Schweiger, a polar scientist working within the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab, expounded upon the implications of the new study and its methodology:

“People have been talking about the possible link between winds and Antarctic sea ice expansion before, but I think this is the first study that confirms this link through a model experiment… This is another process by which dynamic changes in the atmosphere can make changes in sea ice that are not necessarily expected.”

However, the reason for the observed changes in wind strength remain unknown. A number of scientists have posited that it could be linked to global warming, whilst others have suggested a relationship between the depletion of the ozone in the Southern Hemisphere, or merely cyclic variability.

According to climatologists, the loss of ice volume from the Arctic is greater than the expansion of the Antarctic ice; consequently, they state that there is an overall, global loss of sea ice.

Zhang also boldly hypothesizes that, assuming warmer temperatures continue to dominate, this trend will no longer continue, and states the “… trend will reverse.

But, why are there differences between the two poles? Zhang believes he has the answers to this question, indicating that surface air warming in the Arctic is higher and more uniform. He also suggests the Antarctic sea ice to float in open seas, with ice increasing in area over the winter periods, whilst melting during the summer; on the other hand, northern waters are sheltered by a basin.

As expected, the climate scientists continue to state that global warming is continuing to accelerate climate change. Despite Antarctic sea ice levels reaching record highs, the scientific community argue that these findings do not refute global warming.

By: James Fenner

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Source Links:

University of Washington Link

Journal of Climate Link

Live Science Link

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