On September 20 of this year, sea ice surrounding Antarctica covered 7.78 million sq miles (20.14 million sq km), according to NASA. That’s more than twice as big as the continental United States (3.11 million sq miles).
Sea ice surrounding Antarctica reached a new record high extent this year, covering more of the southern oceans than it has since scientists began a long-term satellite record to map sea ice extent in the late 1970s.
Antarctic sea ice extent exceeded 7.72 million square miles (20 million square kilometers), according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The ice extent stayed above this benchmark extent for several days. The average maximum extent between 1981 and 2010 was 7.23 million square miles (18.72 million square kilometers).
The single-day maximum extent this year was reached on Sept. 20, according to NSIDC data, when the sea ice covered 7.78 million square miles (20.14 million square kilometers). This year’s five-day average maximum was reached on Sept. 22, when sea ice covered 7.76 million square miles (20.11 million square kilometers), according to NSIDC
The new Antarctic sea ice record reflects the diversity and complexity of Earth’s environments, said NASA researchers.
Unfortunately, NASA took the occasion to preach about global warming. Yes, when you include ocean temperatures, the temperatures on our planet have increased. But are humans at fault? No. It’s simply a repeat of past cycles. It’s a cycle, it’s a cycle, it’s a cycle.
Here’s the rest of what NASA had to say about this:
Claire Parkinson, a senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has referred to changes in sea ice coverage as a microcosm of global climate change. Just as the temperatures in some regions of the planet are colder than average, even in our warming world, Antarctic sea ice has been increasing and bucking the overall trend of ice loss.
“The planet as a whole is doing what was expected in terms of warming. Sea ice as a whole is decreasing as expected, but just like with global warming, not every location with sea ice will have a downward trend in ice extent,” Parkinson said.
Since the late 1970s, the Arctic has lost an average of 20,800 square miles (53,900 square kilometers) of ice a year; the Antarctic has gained an average of 7,300 square miles (18,900 sq km). On Sept. 19 this year, for the first time ever since 1979,
The upward trend in the Antarctic, however, is only about a third of the magnitude of the rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.
NASA Editor’s note: Antarctica and the Arctic are two very different environments: the former is a continent surrounded by ocean, the latter is ocean enclosed by land. As a result, sea ice behaves very differently in the two regions. While the Antarctic sea ice yearly wintertime maximum extent hit record highs from 2012 to 2014 before returning to average levels in 2015, both the Arctic wintertime maximum and its summer minimum extent have been in a sharp decline for the past decades. Studies show that globally, the decreases in Arctic sea ice far exceed the increases in Antarctic sea ice.