Positive trend in the Antarctic sea ice cover and associated changes in surface temperature
The Antarctic sea ice extent has been slowly increasing contrary to expected trends due to global warming and results from coupled climate models. After a record high extent in 2012 the extent was even higher in 2014 when the magnitude exceeded 20 × 106 km2 for the first time during the satellite era. The positive trend is confirmed with newly reprocessed sea ice data that addressed inconsistency issues in the time series. The variability in sea ice extent and ice area was studied alongside surface ice temperature for the 34-yr period starting in 1981, and the results of the analysis show a strong correlation of −0.94 during the growth season and −0.86 during the melt season. The correlation coefficients are even stronger with a one-month lag in surface temperature at −0.96 during the growth season and −0.98 during the melt season, suggesting that the trend in sea ice cover is strongly influenced by the trend in surface temperature. The correlation with atmospheric circulation as represented by the southern annular mode (SAM) index appears to be relatively weak. A case study comparing the record high in 2014 with a relatively low ice extent in 2015 also shows strong sensitivity to changes in surface temperature. The results suggest that the positive trend is a consequence of the spatial variability of global trends in surface temperature and that the ability of current climate models to forecast sea ice trend can be improved through better performance in reproducing observed surface temperatures in the Antarctic region.
Authors: Comiso, Josefino C., Gersten, Robert A., Stock, Larry V., Turner, John, Perez, Gay J., Cho, Kohei