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Antarctic sea ice is reportedly at record-high levels, but neverthelss researchers are quick to point out that such conditions do not refute knowledge of global warming. In the meantime, Arctic ice continues to melt rapidly, reaching a minimum extent in the top ten lowest since satellite records began.
Last month, on September 20th the ice level peaked at 7.78 million square miles. The 2014 level shattered the previous record, which was set just a year ago in 2013. While scientists are not sure what the exact meaning behind the record levels, they do know a few other things. One theory that’s been circulating is that this is the result of shifting weather patterns. For example, colder air may be getting pushed over the waters of the Antarctic. And it’s not just a simple matter of the north and south offsetting each other, either.
One clue could be found around the Antarctic Peninsula. There, the temperatures are warming ad in the Bellingshausen Sea just to the west of the peninsula, the sea ice is shrinking. Yet beyond this sea and past the Amundsen Sea lies the Ross Sea, where much of the sea ice growth is occurring.
“Just as the temperatures in some regions of the planet are colder than average, even in our warming world, Antarctic sea ice has been increasing and bucking the overall trend of ice loss. 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,” Claire Parkinson, a senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said.
One possible explanation could be that ice is melting in the Antarctic, however the fresh water is the flushed into the ocean and freezes over. Another is that cold air and winds breeze over the Antarctic sea, causing the formation of sea ice. Goddard research scientist Walt Meier explains, “The winds play a really big role. They whip around the continent, constantly pushing thin ice. And if they change direction or get stronger, they push the ice further and grow the extent”.