Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Largest Extent on Record

Published October 9, 2012

Antarctic sea ice set several records during the month of September, repeatedly setting daily records for overall ice extent. 

September 22 through September 27, 2012 now mark the six days with the greatest extent of Antarctic sea ice since satellites began monitoring polar sea ice in 1979. Eleven of the 15 days with the largest overall sea ice extent occurred in 2012, and all 15 occurred since 2006.

Media, Government Ignore Records

The national media and government agencies tasked with monitoring and reporting on global warming issues have been silent on the Antarctic sea ice records. 

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, completely ignored the ice records on its Web site, instead issuing multiple press releases about receding Arctic sea ice. NSIDC, which is charged with monitoring and reporting on polar sea ice in both hemispheres, did not completely ignore the Antarctic, however. While failing to mention the record Antarctic sea ice, NSIDC published an article claiming “thinning and shrinking Antarctic sea ice could push Emperor penguin populations toward extinction.”

National Public Radio (NPR) similarly ignored the record, instead publishing an article leading readers to believe global warming is causing Antarctic sea ice to recede at an alarming pace.

“Ten years ago, a piece of ice the size of Rhode Island disintegrated and melted in the waters off Antarctica. Two other massive ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula had suffered similar fates a few years before. The events became poster children for the effects of global warming. … There’s no question that unusually warm air triggered the final demise of these huge chunks of ice,” claimed the NPR article.

Continental Ice Growing, Also

As Antarctic sea ice expanded during the Northern Hemisphere summer (Southern Hemisphere winter), NASA scientists released data showing snow and ice is accumulating on the Antarctic continent as well. According to NASA, data from the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite measuring mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet between 1992 and 2008, show a net increase for the duration of the period.

NASA scientists explicitly addressed the Antarctic Peninsula ice loss mentioned in the NPR article, noting ice mass accumulation in many other areas of the Antarctic continent more than compensated for the loss of ice on the peninsula.

Past Climate Was Warmer

NASA scientists released an additional study showing Antarctica once supported vegetation similar to that of present-day Iceland. The continent is far too cold to support such vegetation now.

“The southward movements of rain bands associated with a warmer climate in the high-latitude southern hemisphere made the margins of Antarctica less like a polar desert and more like present-day Iceland,” observed NASA scientist and study coauthor Jung-Eun Lee in a press release accompanying the study.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

Internet Info:

“ICESAT Data Shows Mass Gains of the Antarctic Ice Sheet Exceed Losses,” Watts Up With That?:

“Study Finds Ancient Warming Greened Antarctica,” NASA: