100-Year-Old Log Shows Antarctic Ice Not Shrinking (Download PDF)

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About 100 years ago, explorers explained that the sea ice at the South Pole has barely changed in size over the last century. Ship logbooks of explorers such as the British Captain Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton were used to compare where the Antarctic ice edge was during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration (1897 - 1917) and where satellites shows it today.

Irreversible Ice Loss

  • In 2014, researchers claimed the melting of glaciers in West Antarctica might be irreversible.
  • Study shows that the barren region was hemorrhaging ice at a rate triple that of a decade before.
  • The team found the rate by taking radar, laser and satellite measurements of the glaciers’ mass between 1992 and 2013.
  • They found they lost an average 83 gigatons per year the equivalent of loss of water weight of Mount Everest every two years.
  • The mass loss of these glaciers is increasing at an amazing rate.
Logbooks recovered,amount of sea ice has changed in 100 years

Logbooks Recovered, Amount of Sea Ice Has Changed in 100 Years

Logbooks recovered, amount of sea ice has changed in 100 years

Major Comparisons

  • The study suggests that the Antarctic sea ice is much less sensitive to the effects of climate change than that of the Arctic.
  • It estimates that the extent of Antarctic summer sea ice is at most 14 % smaller now than during the early 1900s.
  • Sea ice in the Antarctic has increased slightly over the past 30 years, since satellite observations began.
  • Scientists are understanding this trend in the context of global warming, but these new findings suggest it is not be anything new.
  • If ice levels were as low a century ago as estimated in this research, then a similar increase may have occurred between then and the middle of the century, when previous studies suggest ice levels were far higher.
  • The study suggests the levels in the early 1900s were in fact similar to today, at between 5.3 and 7.4 million square kilometres.
  • Estimates suggest Antarctic sea ice extent was significantly higher during the 1950s, before a steep decline returned it to around 6 million square kilometres in recent decades.

- Published/Last Modified on: November 26, 2016


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