Floating Antarctic ice goes from record high to record lows

Sea ice on the ocean surrounding Antarctica during an expedition to the Ross Sea in January 2017

Sea ice on the ocean surrounding Antarctica during an expedition to the Ross Sea in January 2017. Ted Scambos—AP

Antarctic sea ice loss has suddenly sped ahead of the long-running decline in the Arctic.

While researchers still don't know why Antarctic sea ice increased until 2014, Dr. Kaitlin Naughten, a sea ice modeler at the British Antarctic Survey told CNN that the Antarctic climate was protected from melting and atmospheric warming by the winds surrounding the continent. However, three years later, the annual average extent of Antarctic sea ice hit its lowest mark, wiping out three-and-a-half many years of gains - after which some, a NASA study of satellite data shows.

In recent years, "things have been insane", said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in the US. In an email, he called the plummeting ice levels "a white-knuckle ride".

"We've now got 40 years of data, so we can look more holistically at the interactions between the tropics and the polar regions, the ice and atmosphere", Julie Arblaster, an atmospheric scientist at Monash University in Melbourne, but not involved with the new study, told NBC News.

Arctic sea ice has taken a hit in the past four decades, but generally speaking, the other end of the world, the Antarctic, has fared much better. Miles 10.7 million sq.

The difference - about 770,000 square miles - covers an area three times the size of Texas. Losing that much in merely three years "is fairly incredible" and sooner than something scientists have seen earlier than, mentioned research creator Claire Parkinson, a NASA climate scientist.

A freshwater lake is formed by the melting of ice on King George Island, Antarctica in February 2018.

In may and June, 2019 (in the southern hemisphere it is the autumn and winter months), the amount of sea ice was the lowest in history, eclipsing 2017. Non-scientists who reject mainstream local weather science often had pointed at increasing Antarctic sea ice to deny or downplay the lack of Arctic sea ice.

"The Arctic has become a poster child for global warming", Parkinson said.

Feedback loop: Since sea ice is already displacing water, its loss doesn't directly raise sea levels almost as much as the melting of land-based ice sheets does. Now, some of those explanations may not quite fit, making what happens next still a mystery, Parkinson said.

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