Opinion Climate scientists have confessed they are baffled – yet again – by another all-time record area of sea covered by ice around the Antarctic coasts.
"What we're learning is, we have more to learn," said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, announcing the latest annual sea ice maximum for the austral continent. According to the NSIDC:
Sea ice surrounding the Antarctic continent reached its maximum extent on September 22 at 20.11 million square kilometers (7.76 million square miles). This is 1.54 million square kilometers (595,000 square miles) above the 1981 to 2010 average extent, which is nearly four standard deviations above average. Antarctic sea ice averaged 20.0 million square kilometers (7.72 million square miles) for the month of September. This new record extent follows consecutive record winter maximum extents in 2012 and 2013. The reasons for this recent rapid growth are not clear. Sea ice in Antarctica has remained at satellite-era record high daily levels for most of 2014.
Climate scientists have been puzzled by the behaviour of the southern ice for many years now. The most commonly used models say that its steady growth should not be happening in a warming world (though the warming of the world is also in doubt, as air temperatures have been steady for the last fifteen years or more - and it turns out that deep ocean temperatures are not increasing either, leaving the "mystery" of the apparent end of global warming "unsolved").
This failure of reality to match up with climate modelling has, as some eminent climate scientists have noted, had the effect of "limiting confidence in the predictions" of severe warming and associated disasters this century.
Meanwhile at the other end of the planet the Arctic sea ice has covered lesser areas in recent times. The lowest Arctic area seen in the era of satellite measurements was in 2012, but the three consecutive record-high Antarctic maxima of 2012, 2013 and now 2014 have resulted in global sea ice levels this year and last year coming out pretty much normal. ®