While we are seeing decline of Arctic sea ice, Antarctic sea ice hit its annual winter maximum on September 22, 2014 reaching a record area of 20.11 million square kilometers (7.76 million square miles). The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced on October 7, 2014 that maximum extent was 1.54 million square kilometers (595,000 square miles) above the 1981-2010 average extent and broke the consecutive records set in 2012 and 2013. Monthly averaged ice extent for September is well above average in the western Pacific (northern Ross Sea) and Indian Ocean (Enderby Land) sectors.
The graph above shows Antarctic sea ice extent as of October 2, 2014, along with daily ice extent data for four previous years. 2014 is shown in blue, 2013 in green, 2012 in orange, 2011 in brown, and 2010 in purple. The 1981 to 2010 average is in dark gray. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. (Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center)
Antarctic's sea ice concentration (Credit: NSDIC)
This record follows a trend over the last three years of anomalously high winter ice extents in Antarctic. According to Ted Scambos, a senior scientist with NSIDC, nearly every day has been a record for that day in the satellite record.
This image shows sea ice concentration trends for the month of September 2014. Oranges and reds indicate higher concentration trends; blues indicate lower concentration trends. (Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center)
Scientists belive that shifting winds around the Antarctic continent could be smearing the sea ice out over a larger area. Also, a pool of fresher water around the continent, as an effect of continental glacier melting, may provide a more stable environment for sea ice to grow in. Recent ice sheet melt, caused by warmer, deep ocean water reaching the coastline and melting deeper ice, is making the surface water slightly less dense. While the change in saltiness is too small to significantly affect the freezing temperature, the increase in slightly less dense water surrounding Antarctica inhibits mixing, creating conditions that favor ice growth.
Featured image: An iceberg embedded in sea ice as seen from NASA's IceBridge DC-8 over the Bellingshausen Sea. (Credit: NASA/James Yungel)
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