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Polar Opposites: Arctic sea ice hits record low, Antarctic ice high

There has been a lot of discussion in the past two months about shrinking Arctic sea ice, and, according to researchers at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, on September 16 the extent of the ice reached an all-time low. With so little ice near the North Pole, there is a theory that the Earth’s “air conditioner” is not running as cold as normal and that will alter global weather patterns this winter, ultimately leading to more extreme weather.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” said Dan Lashof, a climate scientist at the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council. “This has a real impact on Americans where they live and work.”

Melting Arctic ice changes the shape and position of the jetstream, allowing tropical air to penetrate further north and Arctic air to penetrate further south, Lashof said in a telephone interview, leading to more extreme weather.

Antarctic Ice

Meanwhile, near the South Pole, there was more ice in Antarctica on September 14 than has been detected on that date since satellite record keeping began 33 years ago. It’s also the fifth highest amount recorded for any day of the year.

There is a controversy brewing about the seemingly disproportionate coverage of the two stories. Some, including James Taylor of Forbes, feel that the growing amount of Antarctic ice is not being given its fair due in the mainstream media.

Indeed, none of the mainstream media are covering this important story. A Google News search of the terms Antarctic, sea ice and record turns up not a single article on the Antarctic sea ice record. Amusingly, page after page of Google News results for Antarctic sea ice record show links to news articles breathlessly spreading fear and warning of calamity because Arctic sea ice recently set a 33-year low.

Sea ice around one pole is shrinking while sea ice around another pole is growing. This sure sounds like a global warming crisis to me.

Dr. Jeff Masters, on his Wunderblog, claims that the amount of sea ice in Antarctica is misleading because there has been warming there in the past 30 years. He addresses that in a post about the record low Arctic sea ice, in which he gives some very strong wording regarding what the record low Arctic sea ice means:

To me, seeing the record Arctic sea ice loss of 2012 is like discovering a growing fire burning in Earth’s attic. It is an emergency that requires immediate urgent attention. If you remove an area of sea ice 43% the size of the Contiguous U.S. from the ocean, it is guaranteed to have a significant impact on weather and climate.

This is all very interesting, but the opinions are as diverse and extreme as the two poles of the Earth. By reading Jeff Masters’ comments, one would have to believe that climate change is an extreme crisis that needs immediate attention or we will suffer dire consequences. However, when visiting a site like Anthony Watts’, a reader is left with the impression that anthropogenic global warming does not exist, and all the changes in the last several decades are due to natural variability. It seems there is no middle ground.

Arctic Sea Ice Anomaly
Arctic Sea Ice Anomaly
Antarctic Sea Ice Anomaly
Antarctic Sea Ice Anomaly


Press release on Antarctic sea ice

Reuters article on Arctic sea ice


Fred Campagna

President and Chief Meteorologist - Right Weather LLC AMS Certified Consulting Meteorologist #756 AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist #126

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