From: ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen, More from this Affiliate
Published February 11, 2015 07:43 AM

19,500 square miles of polar ice melts into oceans each year

Sea ice increases in Antarctica do not make up for the accelerated Arctic sea ice loss of the last three decades, according to the stark findings of a new NASA study.

As a whole, the planet has been shedding sea ice at an average annual rate of 13,500 square miles (35,000 square kilometers) since 1979, the equivalent of losing an area of sea ice larger than the state of Maryland every year.

However, the rate of sea ice loss has recently doubled to now reach an alarming rate of nearly 20,000 square miles.

"Even though Antarctic sea ice reached a new record maximum this past September, global sea ice is still decreasing," said Claire Parkinson, author of the study and climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "That's because the decreases in Arctic sea ice far exceed the increases in Antarctic sea ice."

Parkinson used microwave data collected by NASA and Department of Defense satellites for her study, which was published last December in the Journal of Climate. She added Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extents month by month from November 1978 to December 2013 to determine the global ice extent for each month.

Her analysis shows that over the 35-year period, the trend in ice extents was downward in all months of the year, even those corresponding to the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice maximum extents.

Furthermore, the global ice decrease has accelerated: in the first half of the record (1979-96), the sea ice loss was about 8,300 square miles (21,500 square kilometers) per year. This rate more than doubled for the second half of the period (1996 to 2013), when there was an average loss of 19,500 square miles (50,500 square kilometers) per year - an average yearly loss larger than the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

"This doesn't mean the sea ice loss will continue to accelerate," Parkinson said. "After all, there are limits. For instance, once all the Arctic ice is gone in the summer, the Arctic summertime ice loss can't accelerate any further."

Sea ice has diminished in almost all regions of the Arctic, whereas the sea ice increases in the Antarctic are less widespread geographically. Although the sea ice cover expanded in most of the Southern Ocean between 1979 and 2013, it decreased substantially in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen seas. These two seas are close to the Antarctic Peninsula, a region that has warmed significantly over the last decades.

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, ClickGreen.

Ice image via Shutterstock.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy

2017©. Copyright Environmental News Network