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Harris-Mann Climatology Article Archive

Title: Antarctica Is Seeing Record Sea Ice

Author: Climatologist Cliff Harris
Published: 10/23/2013

As I mentioned earlier, Antarctic sea ice in late September hit a 35-year record high in total volume exceeding the previous record set a year ago in 2012 during September.

On Saturday, September 28, the icepack reached 19.51 million square kilometers, according to data posted on the National Snow and Ice Data Center website. That figure topped the 19.48 million square kilometers set on September 23, 2012. Records on Antarctic sea ice began in October of 1978.

According to a new study in the Journal of Climate by a University of Washington scientist, Jinlum Zhang, “strengthening and converging winds around the South Pole can explain 80 percent of the puzzling increase in Antarctic sea ice.”

Zhang adds, “the polar vortex that swirls around the South Pole is not just stronger than it was when satellite observations were begun in the late 1970s, but it likewise has more ‘convergence,’ meaning it shoves the sea icepacks together causing ridging. This creates thicker, longer-lasting ice while exposing surrounding open waters and thin ice to blisteringly cold winds that result in additional ice growth.”

Not only has the Antarctic sea ice been increasing in recent years, but scientists have likewise witnessed a similar growth of the continental land ice, particularly in the eastern half of Antarctica.

Antarctic cold fronts have been pushing much farther north than usual during the winter months, sometimes actually reaching areas of South America north of the Equator.

This past winter across much of South America was one of the coldest and snowiest winter seasons on record dating back, in some cases, more than 200 years. Parts of northern Argentina, Paraguay and southeastern Brazil saw their first measurable snowfalls in at least a century. A hard freeze last month in central Argentina killed at least 22 percent of the 2013 winter wheat crop.

Australia and New Zealand likewise had colder than normal winter temperatures as did parts of South Africa, where ‘rare’ snowfalls fell in Johannesburg. Some glaciers in extreme southern Argentina and Chile, as well as in New Zealand, are showing “definite signs” of advancing after an extended period of retreat.

Record snows this October have fallen in Japan, extreme northern China, Europe and here in the U.S., where upwards of four feet of snow killed a record 270,000 cattle in South Dakota alone. Some ranchers lost nearly their entire herds.

It’s quite possible, if the chilly ‘La Nina’ sea-surface temperature event holds on to life in the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean, that much of China, Japan, North America and Europe will have a harsher than normal winter of 2013-14. Only time will tell as usual.