The Peculiar Poles

January 29, 2016
North Pole ice pack
NASA

It’s official – the Earth has schizophrenia! The North Pole’s Arctic ice pack reached record lows.

Meanwhile the South Pole’s Antarctic ice pact reached record highs.

Huh?

Click to expand image.

It’s official. This September 16, the Arctic ice shrank to the lowest level since record keeping began in 1979. Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)

While you wait impatiently for winter, hoping for a cooler winter than last year, it’s fun to think about where it gets really cold – the North and South Pole. They have had weather as weird as the US.

Not surprisingly, just as the US has had record warmth, so has the Arctic. As a result, this summer saw a record-breaking melting of the northern sea ice.

There still was a lot of sea ice floating around, an estimated 1.39 million square miles of the stuff. Unfortunately, this was 1.32 million square miles below the 1979 to 2000 average, almost half the normal amount.

Ten days later, the Antarctic, which was experiencing the end of the Southern Hemisphere winter, expanded to the greatest amount ever recorded. It reached 7.51 million square miles, about 20,000 miles more ice than average.

It’s official. This September 26, the Antarctic ice grew to the greatest level since record keeping began in 1979. Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center NSIDC

Oddly enough, the reason for both was strong winds. In the Arctic, a huge storm in early August shattered the sea ice and spewed it south into the warmer waters of the Pacific. Meanwhile in the Antarctic, the circumpolar winds that blow around the South Pole were super strong, trapping all the cold air and creating intense freezing.

All of this is part of a long-term trend. According to scientists, the Arctic sea ice has been shrinking for decades while at the same time the Antarctic ice has been growing. It hasn’t balanced out, however. The Arctic has averaged losing an area the size of Indiana each year while the Antarctic has grown an area the size of Connecticut each year.

Still, for those that worry about Arctic ice, there is some good news. Autumn is finally cooling off and freezing the northern ice pack. The melting ice cap makes headlines. No one reports on how much it grows. It’s growing back at a rapid rate. There may be some long-term concerns but, for now, the North Pole is once again becoming a winter wonderland.

Click to expand image.

The Arctic sea ice is growing again. (2012 is red.) Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) – International Arctic Research Center (IARC)

 

About This Blog

The column, “Weather Whispers,” is authored by James Garriss and Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologists and weather addicts!  Whether you enjoy the science of weather or the fascinating folklore or just fun weather phenomena, it’s probably covered by these weather watchers!

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