Daily Antarctic Sea Ice Area Anomaly

Context: the average Antarctic ice area for the date is about 13.049 million sq. km.  On 12 November, 2015, Antarctic sea-ice extent was .2% (0.027/13.049 million sq. km) BELOW the 1979-2008 average for the date. A new low for Antarctic snowmelt occurred during the southern summer 2008–2009. (Geophysical Research Letters).

Antarctic Sea Ice Anomaly

Analysis: Conventional wisdom (and the IPCC) states that the poles will warm first. Clearly there is no change in the Antarctic. What does this tell us? This cannot be used as an indicator of warming or cooling, because it must be viewed in concert with the Arctic. Also, it only goes back to 1979, when satellite sensors and analytical programs could get a handle on measuring sea ice. Even today it has problems, such as dealing with water on ice, as happens after a warm spell. The sensor sees water, not ice, but this does not mean the underlying ice is gone. If the Antarctic gains ice, but the global balance is about the same, there is no global cooling.

More importantly, we must wonder what the satellites would have observed happening in the Antarctic when Roald Amundsen sailed through the Arctic on the small wooden ship Gjøa since the Northwest Passage was open to sailing vessels in 1903-1905, and again in 1940-42 and 1944 (St. Roch), it is possible the 2007 reduction in Arctic ice is not an indicator of warming, since it was balanced by record high Antarctic ice levels. The return of Arctic sea ice in 2008 to more normal levels and Antarctica generally remaining above the average has received little attention. If you put a ruler on this chart, it is clear there is a trend towards more sea ice, irrespective of what is advocated in the newspapers.

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Last reviewed or updated in September 2015