Polar Ice | Loss North – Gain South | Total?

The reports from studies of the extent of sea ice in the polar regions show opposite trends. The north Arctic region is losing areal coverage. The south Antarctic region is gaining areal coverage of sea ice. I discussed these two opposite trends in this recent post. The question many people have is whether this is a bad thing or not. Doesn’t the gain in the south cancel out the loss in the north so it comes out equal?

Claire Parkinson is in her fourth decade of studying polar sea ice. She often got that question from audiences after her presentations. She examined data from 1979 thru 2013 and charted the results below. It is clear the Arctic sea ice losses are profound in the first graph. Also clear is the trend of increases in the Antarctic sea ice in the second graph. That increase is not as large as the losses, however. The third graph shows the Combined data and the overall global decrease. More details of this story can be found at this link at NASA Earth Observatory.

Earth has been shedding sea ice at an average annual rate of 35,000 square kilometers (13,500 square miles) since 1979—the equivalent of losing an area of sea ice larger than the state of Maryland every year.

Earth Observatory | Joshua Stevens | Maria-Jose Viñas | Mike Carlowicz

References and Related Reading



7 thoughts on “Polar Ice | Loss North – Gain South | Total?

  1. It kind of makes sense to me that the north pole would lose ice more quickly. The north half of the plant has more land. The water surrounding the south will moderate temperatures for a longer period of time until …

    Until the tipping point. Seeing any ice loss in the south is a really big deal.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Another factor for the Arctic is the dark waters that get exposed when melting occurs. The dark waters absorb heat more readily.

    Scientists have noted that the rate of glacier movement to the sea in Antarctica is accelerating in several area. So, even though the sea ice is increasing, the land ice on the continent is moving off faster.

    Thanks for your comments, Debra.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Quite a long time ago I read a report by a meteorologist, who suggested that the decrease in polar ice would disrupt both the jet stream and the ocean currents. This would seem to be happening. He concluded that historically this set of circumstances can tip the planet into another ice age. Of course, historically there weren’t humans pumping CO2 into the atmosphere as fast as they could. The scientist in me is fascinated by all of this, but it is horrifying to read about the climate refugees that have already lost their homes to the sea, and the millions more who soon will.


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