Despite global warming, Antarctica’s sea ice is growing

antarctica sea iceThe Antarctic Ocean has remained unchanged by global warming due to the Deep Ocean water that is constantly pulled to the surface in a centuries-long pas de deux, a new study has found. The University of Washington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s latest research discovered that ocean currents and strong winds keep the seawater around Antarctica at nearly the same temperature, despite some warming in other bodies of seawater.

Climate models and satellite imagery show that the unique currents around Antarctica are constantly pulling seawater up to the surface, which last touched the Earth’s atmosphere before the Industrial Revolution. The paper was published online May 30 in the journal Science Direct in Remote Sensing of Environment.

It shows gale-force westerly winds are constantly whipping around Antarctica and pushing surface water north, continuously drawing up water from far below. The Southern Ocean’s water comes from such great depths, and from sources that are so deep, that it takes centuries before the water reaches the surface and interacts with the atmosphere. Even if it does, the average temperature above the Southern Ocean is so cold that its impact is insignificant.

“With rising carbon dioxide you would expect more warming at both poles, but we only see it at one of the poles, so something else must be going on,” said lead author Kyle Armour, a UW assistant professor of oceanography and of atmospheric sciences. “We show that it’s for really simple reasons, and ocean currents are the hero here.”

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