One of the mysteries that surrounded the scientific community was the real and scientific reason as why the sea ice change was so different between the Arctic and the Antarctic. A study supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently solved the mystery.

The study determined that the reason was some geophysical characteristics that made the Antarctic’s ice to increase while the other pole constantly see drastic reductions on its ice. The ice around Antarctica is pushed offshore by katabatic winds influenced by the continental topography, researchers wrote in the paper published in Science Direct.

Difference between Arctic and Antarctic sea ice change explained
Difference between Arctic and Antarctic sea ice change explained. Image Credit:

While measuring the ice trajectory with satellite scatterometer data in 2008, researchers noted that this revealed that sea ice, previously grown in the ice season, drifts northward away from the Antarctic continent and form a circumpolar frontal ice behind the ice edge.

This kind of protective shield helps the ice to get rougher because its longer exposure to wind and wave actions as well to become thicker with the time due to more ice growth and greater snow accumulation.

The protective shield can grow as much as 1000 km, which encapsulates and protects the younger and thinner ice and allows them a safe environment to grow and thrill. The young ice in this region may be part of a so called “ice factory”.

“The behavior of Antarctic sea ice is not a paradox as some have suggested” the team concluded in their research. “But instead is consistent with the geophysical characteristics in the southern polar region that starkly contrast to those in the Arctic.”

Antarctic Wintertime

Antarctic wintertime showed record-high levels between 2012 and 2014, before returning to its average in 2015. However, this was during the increasing water temperatures in the Southern Ocean, as reported by Discovery News.

Some theories had come to surface trying to explain the possible reason for the important differences between the two poles, before the official one was confirmed recently. Among those that had been advanced are that the ozone hole above the Antarctic may be resulting in strengthened winds conducive to sea ice formation.

Another theory is that the melting glaciers and the ice shelves on the continent are causing a freshening of the sea surface. As a consequence, a higher freezing point that benefits the area compared to the other pole, as salt water freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water.

Arctic’s situation

Ice melt in the northern pole has reached record-high levels while the ice has thinned by 65 percent between 1975 and 2012. According to a report from National Snow & Ice Data Center, Arctic sea ice covered 5.61million square miles at its maximum extent in 2015.  Making it the lowest point since the satellite record-keeping started in 1979. The research also found that the maximum ice coverage expected in 2015 began 15 days earlier than the longtime average.

However, the melting Arctic sea ice does not have a direct impact in sea levels. This lack of direct involvement has to do with the fact that the Arctic has a lot of floating sea ice. Even though this one has decreased in a dramatic level, due to it is already floating this not causes any change in the sea level.

Another theory is that the melting glaciers and the ice shelves on the continent are causing a freshening of the sea surface.
Another theory is that the melting glaciers and the ice shelves on the continent are causing a freshening of the sea surface. Image Credit: NASA

How bad could the rising sea levels be?

Although the Arctic does not have the impact in the sea levels, much help to actually generate important consequences are not much needed anyway. As the problems appears to continue growing by themselves.

According to some outstanding facts about sea levels and its consequences, there is enough water to raise sea level up to 230 feet. Most of the ice is located in Antarctica and Greenland but this ones are currently stable according to some scientists. However, other experts remain worry do to the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet, one of which holds about 11 feet of potential sea level rise, and has reached a tipping point and will collapse soon, as reported by the Washington Post.

The last time that this massive melting occurred was about 10,000 years ago and during a time where there were only about 5 million people on Earth. This people did not even gathered in the coast, where now just in the U.S. the 5 million people live within 4 feet of high tide and it has been developed some major infrastructures near the areas.

And even if it was not enough, the increasing sea level rise is not going to stop anytime soon, according to researchers. The damage done to Earth has already committed the planet to further temperatures increases and as well to further melting of the ice.

The actions that global entities are trying to implement right now are not aimed to stop this sea level rising but to make sure this would not be much worse as expected. But some of the data cannot offer clear outcomes because the rates keep increasing without any stable point.

Source: Science Direct