Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Antarctic: Is the ice growing back?

The year of 2014 baffled the science community. It is expected that with the warming planet due to the increase of greenhouse gas emissions, the cryosphere will ultimately pay the price. It has been seen in the extent of the Arctic sea ice agrees with this statement, with the summer extent of 2014 falling into the 10 lowest extents ever recorded in the instrumental record, but what got the scientists baffled then? Surprisingly, the Antarctic ice extent was the largest ever recorded in 2014. The sea ice extent of Antarctica reached a staggering 7.72 million square miles, with the Arctic sea ice only reaching 1.94 million square miles. So what's going on then?

Image source: NASA

Well its quite understandable for not only the climate sceptics but for the general public to assume that if the ice is growing to levels never recorded before that global warming is not occurring, especially if the data is provided by a reputable source such as NASA. During 2014 it was unknown what was causing this (See video below), but today, it is thought to be the cause of global warming! Surprising though it may seem, the global warming is the cause of the sea ice growth in the Antarctic. As many people know, the Antarctic consists of both land ice up to 3km thick and an abundance of sea ice which surrounds the land. Due to the increase of global temperatures, the terrestrial ice has begun to melt, increasing the amount of freshwater flushed into the southern ocean. The large amount of freshwater added into the ocean system has meant that the salinity of the regional sea has decreased, and thus, chemistry 101, water with lower salinity freezes more readily and at warmer temperatures. This extent of the sea ice is not showing that global warming is not occurring, but in fact, its showing a sign that global warming in the high southern latitudes is having a greater effect of terrestrial melt than ever recorded.  

The video below is provided by NASA. The video was released in 2014 so the understanding of why this was occurring was not understood. the video does highlight the importance of monitoring the sea ice of both poles.

However, could this actually slow the effects of global warming by increasing the albedo? That is something we will have to monitor in the coming years.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I know this has been a contentious topic between climate scientsts and skeptics. It will be interesting to see whether the incease in albedo has any regional (or even global?!) influence on rate of warming.