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Arctic and Antarctic sea ice–What’s the deal?

One of the questions I am sometimes asked about is the effects of changes in sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic on weather in other parts of the world.  As you may know, Arctic sea ice has generally been decreasing since the 1970’s, while Antarctic sea ice is increasing, although not at the same rates.  NASA’s climate blog posted a useful article this week explaining the differences between Arctic and Antarctic sea ice and why we are concerned about their changes.  You can find it at https://climate.nasa.gov/blog/2179/.  I think you will find it a good starting point for discussions with the folks you interact with on climate trends.

Another article on the impacts of decreases in Arctic sea ice was recently published in Nature Geoscience.  This study, based on climate models using changing sea ice levels, shows that, contrary to what you might expect, less sea ice in the Arctic may lead to colder winters in Europe and Asia.  This is thought to be the result of increased absorption of solar radiation by the open ocean, where before the sunlight would have been reflected off of the white sea ice surface.  Salon has a good article which explains the study and what it means for future changes in climate (here).