The quantity of ice circling Antarctica is suddenly plunging from a record high to record low, baffling scientists.
Floating ice off the southern continent increased from 1979 and hit a record high in 2014. However, three years later, the annual average extent of Antarctic sea ice hit its lowest mark, wiping out three-and-a-half many years of gains — after which some, a NASA study of satellite data shows.
In recent times, “things have been crazy,” mentioned Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. In an e-mail, he called the plummeting ice levels “a white-knuckle journey.”
Serreze and other outside specialists mentioned they don’t know if it is a natural blip that will go away or more long-time period global warming that’s finally catching up with the South Pole. Antarctica hasn’t confirmed as much consistent warming as its northern Arctic cousin.
“but the fact that such a massive change can happen in such a short time should be viewed as a sign that the Earth has the potential for important and rapid change,” University of Colorado ice scientist Waleed Abdalati stated in an e-mail.
At the polar regions, ice ranges develop throughout the winter and shrink in the summer. Round Antarctica, sea ice averaged 4.9 million sq. Miles (12.8 million sq. Km) in 2014. By 2017, it was a record low of 4.1 million sq. Miles 10.7 million sq. Kilometers, according to the examine in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The Arctic is a floating ice cap on an ocean penned in by continents. Antarctica is the other, with the land surrounded by open ocean. That allows the ice to grow much farther out, Parkinson stated.
When Antarctic sea ice was rising, scientists pointed to shifts in wind and strain patterns, ocean circulation changes or natural but frequent climate changes like El Nino and its southern cousins. Now, a few of those explanations may not quite fit, making what happens next still a mystery, Parkinson mentioned.