Climate science, and the prediction of future changes in the earth systems, is a highly complex topic, pulling together a multitude of variables and trying to rationalize a host of regional differences.
Now, a new piece of research from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and NASA, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, has added another piece to the jigsaw which may lead to successful climate prediction.
Trends in Antarctic Sea Ice Cover: the Study Results
The paper, Wind-driven trends in Antarctic sea-ice motion, by Paul Holland of the BAS and Ron Kwok of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, used satellite readings to track the movement of sea ice in Antarctica over a period of almost two decades.
This high-quality data set provides observed measurements which can be used to validate those produced by computer models.
“The basic finding of the study,” Dr. Holland told Decoded Science, “is that the drift of the sea ice has changed in response to changes in the winds.”
This change has led to an effective redistribution of sea ice cover in the Antarctic – overall there is a net gain, although this masks considerable variation, with some areas experiencing growth in sea ice and others experiencing depletion.
These findings contrast sharply with the pattern being experienced in the Arctic, where the wasting of sea ice has been rapid and extensive. And it’s also worth noting that there’s a distinction between sea ice (essentially frozen seawater) and land ice, which has been locked in the ice sheet for millennia. Melting sea ice doesn’t affect the balance of land and sea and so has no impact on sea level. Melting land ice does – and the Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing mass.