Antarctic Ice Expanding From Global Warming, Scientists Say

Melissa Stusinski

Antarctic ice has been spreading, reaching a record 7.51 million square miles in September, just days before it was reported that the Arctic sea has seen the biggest loss on record this year.

The gain of Antarctic sea ice is a big story for climate change skeptics, who argue that the globe isn't really warming and that scientists who believe it is are simply ignoring the southern continent, because it isn't convenient to the theory, reports USA Today.

Scientists contend, however, that the skeptics are actually misinterpreting what is happening and why. Experts have said that shifts in wind patterns, along with the giant ozone hole over the Antarctic this time of year, are most likely behind the increase in ice. The subtle growth in winter sea ice since 1979 was initially surprising, but now it makes sense to them the more it is studied.

Researcher Ted Maksym spoke this week from an Australian research vessel in the middle of Antarctic sea ice. He stated, "A warming world can have complex and sometimes surprising consequences."

Several experts, like Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, agree with Maksym. Scambos added, "It sounds counterintuitive, but the Antarctic is part of the warming as well."

NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati, an expert on ice, agrees, but says:

"Scientifically the change is nowhere near as substantial as what we see in the Arctic. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be paying attention to it and shouldn't be talking about it."

The difference is more noticeable in September when northern sea ice is the lowest, but southern ice is at its highest. While loss of sea ice in the Arctic has affected people in the Northern Hemisphere with higher risk of extreme weather in the US, Antarctica's weather peculiarities, on the other hand, don't have a big effect on civilization.

While that Arctic ice responds more directly to warmth, the Antarctic's ice is affected by the ozone hole, as well as the wind, which is tied in a complicated way to climate change from greenhouse gases. In essence, climate change has created a wall of wind that is keeping cool weather bottled up in Antarctic.