the record global heat of 2016 and on into 2017, the world’s sea
ice has taken a merciless pounding.
the Northern Hemisphere, extreme warming of the polar region pushed
Arctic sea ice extents to record low daily ranges throughout the
winter, spring and fall of 2016. And even today, after many months of
daily record lows, sea ice in the Arctic remains more reduced (in
than it has ever been for this time of year.
the other side of the world, the story is much the same. For it now
appears that the ocean region around Antarctica is about to
experience an all-time record annual low
for sea ice:
Antarctic sea ice measure for
all years since 1978 shows a strong challenge to the previous record
low for extent set in 1997 [lower left hand corner of the graph].
With 2-4 weeks left in the melt season, the present measure is just
about 170,000 square kilometers above the 1997 record low during
Southern Hemisphere summer.)
warmth, though less intense than in the Arctic zone, did finally
begin to invade the austral polar region during Southern Hemisphere
spring and summer (2016-2017). And since mid October, sea ice
surrounding Antarctica has remained in record low daily ranges (see
lower red line on the graph above). Wednesday, February 1st’s, JAXA
measure of 2.42 million square kilometers of sea ice extent remaining
is now just about 170,000 square kilometers above the previous record
low sea ice extent set during mid-to-late February of 1997.
building into Antarctica over the next two weeks may be the final
straw that tips the near ocean region into new all-time record lows
for sea ice extent. The above GFS model prediction for February 9th
Climate Reanalyzer shows
temperature anomalies predicted for Antarctica and the surrounding
regions. Red to orange is warmer than average, blue to purple is
colder than average.)
a result, over the next week, temperatures around Antarctica and in
the nearby region of the Southern Ocean are expected to average
between 1.2 and 1.8 C above the already warmer than normal 1979
through 2000 average. Meanwhile, parts of West Antarctica’s coastal
zone are expected to hit as high as 5-20 C above that average.
more warmth on the way, with measures already striking nearly half a
million square kilometers below previous daily record lows, and with
at least two weeks remaining in the melt season, it appears likely
that we are in for a new all-time record low for sea ice extent in
the ocean region surrounding Antarctica. If the new record does
occur, it will happen during a time when the Arctic is also
experiencing daily record lows for sea ice during Northern Hemisphere
winter and as the world is experiencing global temperatures in the
range of 1 to 1.2 degrees Celsius above 1880s averages.