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Antarctic Sea Ice Hits New All-Time Record Low

During late February, Antarctic sea ice breached the previous all-time record low for extent coverage since measurements began in 1978. And in the following days, sea ice extent measures near the South Pole have continued to creep lower, gradually extending into unprecedented ranges.

Record Melt During a Period of Considerable Global Heat

antarctic-sea-ice-new-all-time-record-low

(This February, according to JAXA, the Antarctic sea ice extent measure hit a new all time record low. Image source: JAXA.)

Hitherto unseen global heat — driven primarily by human fossil fuel emissions — appears to be the chief contributor to this melting. During 2016, global average surface temperatures rose to 1.2 degrees Celsius above 1880s ranges. This global reading likely represents the warmest surface temperatures the world has experienced in the last 115,000 years. At the same time, the global ocean system has been rapidly accumulating warmth and transferring it through the surface and deep layers of the world’s waters.

Such pervasive heat is producing an ongoing trend of considerable sea ice melt in the Arctic — a trend that has been in place since record-keeping began in 1978. One that, all by itself, is strong enough to drag global sea ice measures lower and lower. The warmth is also producing land ice melt around the world — including glaciers in Antarctica, Greenland and across numerous mountain ranges.

global-sea-ice-anomaly-strongly-negative

(Global warming produced an identifiable global sea ice melt trend during the post year 2000 period. By 2016, that trend had become glaringly obvious. See final paragraph for further discussion. Image source: Wipneus.)

Mild Antarctic Ice Growth Trend Reversed

Sea ice melt in the Antarctic, however, is a possible new feature. In the past, it is thought that fresh water outflow from glaciers in Antarctica and strong winds encircling the Southern Hemisphere sea ice helped to protect it from the initial pulse of human-forced warming. And as recently as 2014 and 2015, Antarctic sea ice experienced new record high readings even as the long-term trend hinted at a possible slow expansion of sea ice near the South Pole. Researchers had indicated that the protection for Southern Hemisphere sea ice might only last as long as fragile wind patterns around the South Pole remained.

For 2016 and 2017, however, that thin veil of protection appears to have fallen. Previous record lows for Antarctic sea ice extent set in 1997 at 2.26 million square kilometers sea ice coverage during the austral summer month of February have now been exceeded by 100,000 square kilometers. As of yesterday, according to JAXA, the new record low stood at 2.16 million square kilometers.

arctic-above-normal

(More above average temperatures predicted this week for Antarctica may extend sea ice record lows somewhat before refreeze sets in. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Antarctic refreeze typically starts during mid-February as seasonal cooling sets in. However, 2017’s warmth has driven an extension of late season melt with Antarctic sea ice continuing to decline through the end of February. At some point during the next week or two, however, refreeze is likely to finally kick in. But this return to rising ice coverage may be still be delayed somewhat by very warm Antarctic temperatures predicted to range as high as 2.9 C above average through the next five days.

Global Sea Ice Coverage Falling Rapidly

This year’s all time record low for Antarctic sea ice extent also comes at a time when the Arctic has been experiencing daily, monthly and seasonal record lows. Highly unseasonable temperatures have dominated Arctic Fall and Winter during 2016 and 2017 — producing never before see low extent coverage during the period. As a result of record lows occurring at the same time in the north and in the south, overall global sea ice coverage has taken a considerable beating and the larger global sea ice trend is now strongly negative.

Links:

JAXA

Climate Reanalyzer

Wipneus

NASA GISS

IPCC Ocean Heat Gain

Global Sea Ice Diminishing Despite Antarctic Gains

What’s Going on With Antarctic Sea Ice?

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26 Comments

  1. Ryan in New England

     /  February 28, 2017

    Good to have you back, Robert! Record low sea ice in the Antarctic at the same time we are seeing profound changes in the Arctic. With the Arctic entering melt season in horrible shape it feels like we’ll be discussing the Arctic a lot in the coming months.

    Reply
  2. Ryan in New England

     /  February 28, 2017

    Another casualty from the warming oceans…coral. The second bleaching event to hit the Great Barrier Reef in as many years is underway.

    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/39569-alarming-new-coral-bleaching-event-has-begun-at-the-great-barrier-reef

    Reply
  3. Ridley Jack

     /  February 28, 2017

    02 ppm https://www.co2.earth/daily-co2 how high will c02 ppm hit this year 410-412 ppm? h

    Reply
    • Ridley Jack

       /  February 28, 2017

      I wanna try to stay more positive about our climate encourage hope that humanity will solve the climate that has done dare I say great things for our specie but the irony is realizing that what got us here needs to fined tuned to continue on.

      Reply
  4. Bob from Seattle

     /  February 28, 2017

    I was disappointed in Bill Nye’s appearance on Tucker Carlson tonight. He was asked very plainly “what would the climate be like today if humans weren’t involved”. Bill started well by bringing up the last ice age but then he switched to the dinosaurs. Tucker rightly called him on switching from a tens-of-thousands of years format. Bill didn’t seem to catch on. I’m guessing these two have some past animosity. Tucker said he was open to human involvement in the changing climate. He just wants to be convinced. He wants to hear good arguments, and he’s on FOX.

    Reply
    • Dave Person

       /  February 28, 2017

      Hi,
      Wants to be convinced? Hear good arguments? Then don’t interview a light-weight like Bill Nye rather someone like Hansen, Schmidt, Alley, ………any of a thousand other climate scientists.

      dave

      Reply
    • Whachamacallit

       /  February 28, 2017

      Hmmm, I imagine that if we weren’t around, or didn’t industrialize, the climate would be cooler-not only compared to today, but compared to the 1850s. While it may be too early to say for sure, I think we were slowly descending into an Ice Age by 5,000 BCE, and temperatures had more or less lowered down 0.7 Celsuis below that high point by the 1850s. So assuming that trend is indicative, the Earth would’ve been slightly more chilly than the temperature average for ~1850.

      Unfortunately, we’ve more than made up for that cooling in the span of a 150 years.

      Reply
  5. Abel Adamski

     /  February 28, 2017

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/28/shell-knew-oil-giants-1991-film-warned-climate-change-danger

    ‘Shell knew’: oil giant’s 1991 film warned of climate change danger

    Public information film unseen for years shows Shell had clear grasp of global warming 26 years ago but has not acted accordingly since, say critics

    Reply
    • g. orwell

       /  February 28, 2017

      Shell’s still playing second to Exxon, which has been documented to have been dealing with the concept since the mid seventies!

      Reply
      • g. orwell

         /  February 28, 2017

        to be fair, Exxon didn’t produce a show for the public….Shell likely onboard in seventies w/Exxon.

        Reply
  6. Shawn Redmond

     /  February 28, 2017

    Due to the amount of ocean surface south of the 70th parallel in West Antarctica the increase in sea ice extent is going to start growing soon for sure. However the land/ocean boundary in East Antarctica is for the most part north of the 70th and as such doesn’t stop breaking up till April as a rule. If you scroll back through the Aprils using; https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/?p=antarctic&l=MODIS_Aqua_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor,MODIS_Terra_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor,Coastlines&t=2017-02-27&z=3&v=-3473066.6469083796,-2872347.8114088266,5038421.35309162,2616292.1885911734 , you will see continued break up well into April for most of what is considered the east. The thing that I’ve noticed if you look closely at specific areas is that every year there is a bit more MYI that goes at the end of the melt season. This is a most disturbing year over year change when taking into account the recent worries concerning the rumblings in East Antarctica. The changes look small on the sat pics but I’m sure that in human terms these changes would be massive if one where to be standing nearby each April. The glacier toes of the east are hundreds of kilometres closer to the ever warming oceans then the glaciers of the west. The east also would seem to have a longer melt season by at least four to six weeks. If ocean heat and circulation patterns are going to start playing a bigger roll in the melt, as it would seem, than the east is well positioned for quite an impressive move. Being that much closer the disruption could be that much faster. With the Arctic collapsing it could prove that a pincer move is under way.

    Reply
  7. Another cOld, wet day in northern and southern Arizona in our El Nino like winter. 62 in Phoenix today increasing rapidly this week to 80 , pretty normal for end of Feb, on Friday.

    Glad to see you back, Robert.

    Sheri

    Reply
  8. Suzanne

     /  February 28, 2017

    Climate Summit..January 2017. Part II just posted on Youtube. Dr. Ben Strauss talks SLR:

    Reply
  9. Jeremy in Wales

     /  February 28, 2017

    Dear Mr Trump really does care about climate change and is really on a drive to reduce carbon emissions, at least from air transport:
    https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/feb/28/us-tourism-experiences-a-trump-slump
    follows the law of unintended consequences?
    Air transport can be stressful enough but last time I went to the US I went through Dublin, where you can pass through US immigration before boarding the plane. Only time I have found smiling talkative US Border agents they even knew about rugby.

    Robert; thanks for the updates, really appreciated.

    Reply
  10. Cate

     /  February 28, 2017

    Glad to see you back, RS! I only wish there were good news to share. Alas. Climate change is now biting hard in Newfoundland/NW Atlantic waters, as the snow crab stocks have plummeted since 2013. The main cause? Fisheries scientists confirm: it’s warming waters.

    The fall in crab stocks will have serious effects on the fragile economy of Newfoundland, coming as it does on the heels of similar recent news on shrimp stocks. Both these species are “cash cows” for Newfoundland fishermen and the life-blood for many communities in this province. Climate change, coming home to our bank accounts, personal and communal.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/snow-crab-stock-assessment-1.4001411

    Note that commenters to this CBC story are, as usual, in raging denial.

    Reply
    • Thx, Cate. Always glad to hear from you.

      On the U.S. East Coast we’ve had record warm temperatures followed by a flash freeze. The trees budded last week. But growers, particularly apple farmers, are concerned about the warm and highly variable weather.

      In the U.S., Trump scandals and contraversies have dominated the news. EPA and various beneficial Obama regs are on the chopping block. Looks like we could see a big surge in carbon emissions without unprecedented resistance by Congress, the states, cities, and individuals.

      Reply
      • Vernon Hamilton

         /  March 2, 2017

        Those big warm-cold-warm oscillations in the gulf stream are indeed a serious thread to the fruit crop. Last spring, Here in central NY our apples and pears were in full flower when a cold wave swept through and destroyed about the entire crop. I got maybe 10% of what I had the previous year. Those waves are getting deeper, ie farther south, and moving slower, every year, as we know, passing through NY and New England fairly often now, whereas, even a few years ago, we rarely experienced them. The northern fruit crop looks to be about 50% reliable going forward, even setting aside the decline in the bee population and other pressures. sigh.

        Reply
        • Vernon Hamilton

           /  March 2, 2017

          Jet steam, not gulf stream of course.

  1. Antarctic Sea Ice Hits New All-Time Record Low | robertscribbler | GarryRogers Nature Conservation

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