Although it may sound like good news, the record sea ice extent is just a small part of the hugely complex issue that is global warming. Before climate change deniers get too excited, researchers have stated that the Arctic Ocean is losing sea ice at a rate three times faster than that which Antarctica is gaining it.
Since records began, Antarctic sea ice coverage has increased by an average of 7,300 square miles (18,900 sq km) per year, but the Arctic has lost an average of 20,800 square miles (53,900 square kilometers). The National Snow and Ice Data Center stated that on September 19 this year, Antarctic sea ice extent exceeded 7.72 million square miles (20 million square kilometers) for the first time ever since 1979. On average, the maximum sea ice coverage in Antarctica was 7.23 million square miles (18.72 million square kilometers) between 1981 and 2010.
Sea Ice Extent In Antarctica: A microcosm of global warming
Despite the fact that the planet is warming on average, there are a variety of explanations as to why the extent of Antarctic sea ice has been increasing. Claire Parkinson, a senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, claims that the new Antarctic sea ice record shows the complexity of global climate change.
It may seem strange that ice coverage has increased in a warming world, but Parkinson reminds us that despite the fact that average global temperatures have increased, some areas have recorded lower than average temperatures.
A variety of influencing factors
According to Walt Meier, a research scientist at Goddard, a warming climate changes weather patterns, and those changes will result in cooler air in some areas. He claims that in Antarctica it isn’t difficult to set a new record for sea ice extent, because sea ice circles the continent and covers a huge area.
Other explanations include changing pressure systems and wind patterns due to the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Although researchers have noted strong pressure systems, which lead to higher winds, this alone is not enough to explain the record breaking sea ice extent.
They have also speculated as to the influence of changing water circulation and snowfall patterns, but the issue remains so complex that a definitive explanation has not been found. Scientists continue to evaluate a number of variables.