Antarctic ice sheet has stopped expanding for the first time in four years

Antarctic ice sheet has stopped expanding for the first time in four years

Arctic ice sheet usually gets media attention for its rapid melting, however, this time it’s the Antarctic where noteworthy activity is going on.

The expansion of the Antarctic ice sheet has been halted for the first time in four years. Moreover, the sea ice extent has gone below average levels.

Nearly 61% of the Earth’s fresh water comes from the Antarctic ice sheet, and regardless of the mass shrinking of its Arctic cousin in the past 10 years, the Antarctic has gone through a number of periods of growth during the same time frame.

In the beginning of 2015, Antarctic sea ice extent was at all-time high levels for that time of the year since records started in 1979, very far above the long-term mean. Until July, sea ice stayed anomalously high, but then rapid shrinking kicked off.

Monthly sea ice extent went below average levels in August last year, for the first time since November 2011. During 2015, the sea ice extent has stayed quite close to average levels.

Towards the end of the first week of January, even though sea ice was just a sliver below 30-year averages for the date, it measured decade’s lowest relative levels.

In 2015, global temperatures hit an all-time high but it isn’t sure so far whether this was the main cause of the shrinking of the ice sheet. So far there is nothing certain around upcoming trends for sea ice in the Antarctic.

Oceans are among the key drivers of global climates. Last year, Southern Hemispheric oceans were record-warm from May through December due to which a quick retreat of sea ice could appear as the main outcome, however it isn’t that simple.


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