Antarctic Sea-Ice is Not Disappearing but Increasing

Written by Dr Klaus L.E. Kaiser

The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) reports that “In recent years, environmental scientists have warily watched as the ice sheet on the coast of West Antarctica has begun melting at unprecedented rates. AntarcticaIn May, NASA glaciologists declared that the catastrophic melt of the ice sheet to be ‘unstoppable.”

The news is dire indeed – unless you consider the actual facts.

The Antarctica is the earth’s southernmost land mass and is commonly termed its 7th continent. Its area comprises 14.0 million square km (5.4 million square miles) which actually makes it the fifth-largest continent on our planet. In comparison Australia is only one half the size of Antarctica. Despite its size, the continent does not have any permanent residents. There is a reason for that.

As the continent is centered on the earth’s South Pole it receives very little sunlight. A large part of the year there is nearly total darkness while we enjoy summer in the northern hemisphere. Most of Antarctica’s land mass is covered with an ice sheet one mile thick. That covers most of the continent except for a range of high mountain tops (up to 4.5 km or 2.5 miles in height) that rise above the continental ice sheet.

Like glaciers in Greenland and other parts of the world, the Antarctic ice sheet also continuously but slowly flows downhill into the ocean. At the water’s edge parts of the ice break off, a process termed calving, and result in free-floating icebergs that are a great danger to marine vessels. The Titanic was one of many ships lost that way.  The western Antarctic (land) ice sheet extends far into the sea. That part, of course, is particularly prone to dissolution by the water and to breaking off from the ice mass on land. According to the definition of “sea-ice” by Merriam Webster it ought to be termed that rather than land ice.

In any event, the loss of such sea-ice (formerly land ice) from the western Antarctica is well compensated for by an increasing land ice mass on the eastern part of the continent. In addition, there is more sea-ice around Antarctica than recorded ever before.

Antarctica Sea-Ice

In addition to that large ice mass on the land in Antarctica there is an almost equal size of sea-ice surrounding the continent in the local winter. Of course the extent of that sea-ice varies strongly with the seasons just like in the Arctic. In the Antarctic summer (winter in the northern hemisphere) the sea-ice extent shrinks to the order of five million square km and to grow again to 15 million square km over its winter period. That seasonal variation is quite normal, like spring and fall in temperate climes and has absolutely nothing to do with carbon dioxide in the air. It’s simply caused by the amount of the radiation energy received from the sun.

The sea-ice extent around Antarctica has been expanding in recent years. In fact, both in 2013 and 2014 it has increased repeatedly to new all-time seasonal record levels. This is quite apparent from the graph below that shows the annual variations from the 1979-2008 mean extent. southern sea ice anomalyFig below.: Southern hemisphere variations (in million sq. km) of sea-ice extent, relative to the 1979-2008 mean (zero value). Source: Judith Curry, reproduced under the Creative Commons license.

Even a casual view of that graph will indicate that the Antarctic sea-ice has not been melting but actually increasing in size for several years now. Of course, with the sea-ice increasing there is no likelihood of the continental ice sheet on Antarctica melting away either. In other words, the report by CSM is just another totally misleading statement.

Arctic Sea-Ice

In many aspects, Antarctica today is similar to the appearance of the northern half (say above the latitude of 45 degrees N) of the northern hemisphere as recently as 20,000 years ago. Then, most of those parts of the North American, Asian and European continents were also covered with a mile deep layer of ice.

Arctic sea-ice also is claimed to be disappearing faster than hot buns from the baker’s shelves. The facts are different. Arctic sea-ice has also been increasing in recent (northern hemisphere) winters and decreasing less than in previous summers. The Weather Channel’s 2014/2015 winter forecast predicts below-average temperatures for the central and eastern parts of North America. Perhaps a new ice age is closer than you think.

Isn’t it time to look the facts straight into the eye?


Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser  Bio  Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser Most recent columns

Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts

Dr. Kaiser can be reached

Comments (1)

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    Hans Schreuder


    Thanks Klaus for shedding yet more light on the truth rather than hyped sound-bites that satisfy the green paymasters. “After all, the strongest lies are always the ones with a dash of truth mixed into it. Therefore, it is time we distinguish fact from fiction, and the truth from lies.” quote from the Malaysian Star online.

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