Antarctic sea ice area has expanded to its highest level on record, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Moreover, the Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its sixth lowest level ever, scientists said Tuesday. The shrinking state of Arctic ice was expected due to warming. But the record high Antarctic sea ice area was a big surprise.

Antarctic Sea Ice

Antarctic sea ice coverage surpasses 20 square million kilometers

Scientists said the Antarctic sea ice coverage reached 7.63 million square miles on Tuesday, surpassing the previous record high set in September 2013. Sea ice wanes and waxes during its annual cycle. The Antarctic coverage reaches a maximum in mid-September, which marks the end of winter in Southern Hemisphere.

Antarctic Sea Ice

Jan Leiser of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center said it was the third straight year of Antarctic sea ice reaching a recorded maximum. And for the first time it has exceeded 20 million square kilometers. It seems paradoxical considering the climate change. The conundrum of expansion in Antarctic sea ice as the Arctic decreases has puzzled scientists. But there are other factors at play, said Dr Leiser.

Why is Antarctic sea ice area increasing?

Leiser suggested the Antarctic ice area is increasing because of increased wind speed and the addition of more land-bound ice in Antarctica. Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice extent in 2014 is 440,000 square miles below its 1981-2000 average. Scientists said, this September, the Arctic has lost over 11,100 square miles of ice every day, about twice the average of 1981-2010.

Note that the rising Antarctic sea ice area doesn’t disprove global warming. Of course, the winter sea ice has increased in the Antarctic, but the Southern Ocean water is warming. Moreover, satellite measurements have revealed that, on balance, the Antarctic continent is actually losing ice. To raise awareness about climate change, hundreds of thousands of people are holding a ‘People’s Climate March‘ this Sunday in New York, only two days before the United Nations Climate Summit begins.