Has the expansion of Antarctic sea ice accelerated?

July 22, 2014 4:53 PM

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Despite global warming, the fringe of sea ice around Antarctica is expanding slightly, in contrast to the marked decline of sea ice in the Arctic. Scientists have blamed this curious fact on various forces, from shifting winds to smaller waves, but a new study suggests a more mundane culprit: an error in the way the satellite data have been processed. The miscalculation, the authors say, might be making the sea ice increase appear larger than it is.

Sea ice cover—ice that’s floating free on the ocean surface, rather than on land—has been observed by satellites since the late 1970s. Satellite sensors use different frequencies and polarizations to distinguish ice from water, and scientists have developed several algorithms to then process the dat...

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