Increasing Antarctic sea ice extent linked to the ozone hole

Apr 21, 2009
Arctic ice

Increased growth in Antarctic sea ice during the past 30 years is a result of changing weather patterns caused by the ozone hole according to new research published this week (Thurs 23 April 2009).

Reporting in the journal Geophysical Research Letters scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and NASA say that while there has been a dramatic loss of , Antarctic sea ice has increased by a small amount as a result of the ozone hole delaying the impact of greenhouse gas increases on the climate of the continent.

Sea ice plays a key role in the global environment - reflecting heat from the sun and providing a habitat for marine life. At both poles sea ice cover is at its minimum during summer. However, during the winter freeze in Antarctica this ice cover expands to an area roughly twice the size of Europe. Ranging in thickness from less than a metre to several metres, the ice insulates the warm ocean from the frigid atmosphere above. Satellite images show that since the 1970s the extent of Antarctic sea ice has increased at a rate of 100,000 square kilometres a decade.

The new research helps explain why observed changes in the amount of sea-ice cover are so different in both polar regions.

Lead author Professor John Turner of BAS says,

"Our results show the complexity of across the Earth. While there is increasing evidence that the loss of sea ice in the Arctic has occurred due to human activity, in the Antarctic human influence through the ozone hole has had the reverse effect and resulted in more ice. Although the ozone hole is in many ways holding back the effects of increases on the Antarctic, this will not last, as we expect to recover by the end of the 21st Century. By then there is likely to be around one third less Antarctic sea ice."

Using satellite images of sea ice and computer models the scientists discovered that the has strengthened surface winds around Antarctica and deepened the storms in the South Pacific area of the Southern Ocean that surrounds the continent. This resulted in greater flow of cold air over the Ross Sea (West Antarctica) leading to more ice production in this region.

The satellite data reveal the variation in sea ice cover around the entire Antarctic continent. Whilst there has been a small increase of sea ice during the autumn around the coast of East Antarctica, the largest changes are observed in West Antarctica. Sea ice has been lost to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula - a region that has warmed by almost 3ºC in the past 50 years. Further west sea over the Ross Sea has increased.

Turner continues,
"Understanding how polar sea ice responds to global change - whether human induced or as part of a natural process - is really important if we are to make accurate predictions about the Earth's future climate. This new research helps us solve some of the puzzle of why sea-ice is shrinking is some areas and growing in others."

More information: The paper 'Non-annular atmospheric circulation change induced by stratospheric ozone depletion and its role in the recent increase of Antarctic sea ice extent' by J Turner, JC Comiso, G J Marshall, T A Lachlan-Cope, T Bracegirdle, T Maksym, MP Meredith, Z Wang, and A Orr (2009), is published in doi:10.1029/2009GL037524, [23 April 2009].

Source: British Antarctic Survey (news : web)

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User comments : 12

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Velanarris
5 / 5 (6) Apr 21, 2009
Any reason why someone would photoshop a pond in the shape of Florida on the ice?
googleplex
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2009
Well spotted Velanarris!
Makes me think the article is bunk. If they can mutilate the photo then they can mutilate the text.
Suzu
1 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2009
Isn't the ice declining?
Islandbound
5 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2009
Wow, it does look like Florida. If it isn't (wow)- if not, then somebody is looking to destroy themselves. And wouldn't a hole in the ozone layer accelerate melting since more "energy" is being absorbed by the ocean and ice?
mysticshakra
4 / 5 (4) Apr 21, 2009
Declining or increasing, its global warming.

Temp goes up? Global warming.

Temp goes down? Global Warming.

It's called warming downwards.
Damon_Hastings
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2009
Well spotted Velanarris!

Makes me think the article is bunk. If they can mutilate the photo then they can mutilate the text.

Yes, the fact that PhysOrg used an irrelevant stock photo is clear evidence that the original article published in Geophysical Research Letters is bunk.
Damon_Hastings
3 / 5 (5) Apr 21, 2009
Declining or increasing, its global warming.
Temp goes up? Global warming.
Temp goes down? Global Warming.
It's called warming downwards.

I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to here -- are you referring to the fact that global climate change involves some regions getting colder even while the Earth as a whole gets warmer? This is just a simple matter of energy transferring from one region to another. Also, some regions (such as the southwest US) are getting drier even while the Earth as a whole gets wetter. Climate systems are complex. I hope you don't take that complexity as evidence that the measured global averages are incorrect.
ethergear
5 / 5 (1) Apr 21, 2009
I had to look it up, but it's definitely Florida. They're probably just checking to see if we're paying attention.
Velanarris
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 21, 2009
Isn't the ice declining?
Nope, it's increasing steadily. Only Arctic sea ice is "threatened".

JLMEALER
2.8 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2009
Okay folks.. Please don't think I'm blogging psyorg just to leave news about Mealer American Motors Corp.. But as I find articles worth reading and commenting on, I have decided to mention the next major US Automaker. One day you will drive a MEALER.

Okay enough said about that...

I build the greenest of cars yet am far from an eco-nut. I wear deodorant without regard for the ozone (even though it's a stick.. ya never know what may come out of Berkley's or Oregon U's brain dept next).

Man did not cause global warming. In the 70's they told us we were eating a hole in the ozone and needed to burn more fossil fuels to plug it up.

Go figure... The news is where the money is and it's easier to tax worried people than working people. Did Al Gore add the Florida cut-out to the pic above?

JL Mealer
aco
not rated yet Apr 22, 2009
...wouldn't a hole in the ozone layer accelerate melting since more "energy" is being absorbed by the ocean and ice?

Im surprised that this article did not address this discrepancy. Increased surface winds would explain the use of excess energy, but the logic implied by the article leaves one to think that the hole in the ozone layer promotes local cooling (more ice reflecting radiation).
jeffsaunders
1 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2009
It is definitely confusing. I am sure I have been reading many articles about dramatic loss of sea Ice around Antarctica including breaking up ice in Ross shelf for example.

The clear implication of all the articles I have read, that go to great pains to mention increasing temperature of 3 degrees.

Yet here we have reference to clear increases in sea Ice steadily over the last 30 years around Antarctica.

So these other articles may be correct in detail about particular lumps of ice breaking away, but then they go and on about this allowing more glaciers to slide into to sea etc etc with lots of talk about global warming - it must be at this point that the articles I have been reading have simply forgotten about the fact that Antarctica as a whole has not been getting warmer but must have been getting colder, as it is expanding into sea ice.

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