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Antarctic Sea Ice Continues To Blow Away Records

June 4, 2014

By Paul Homewood




Antarctic sea ice has set a new record for May, with extent at the highest level since measurements began in 1979. At the end of the month, it expanded to 12.965 million sq km, beating the previous record of 12.722 million sq km set in 2010. This year’s figure is 10.3% above the 1981-2010 climatological average of 11.749 million sq km.

The lowest extent on record was 10.208 million sq km in 1986.


It is a similar story for the average monthly extent, below.





Ice extent has been consistently and continuously well above climatological norms for the last 12 months.





 HH Lamb

It is worth noting what Hubert Lamb had to say about Antarctic sea ice in the 19thC, in his book “Climate, History and The Modern World”, (page 257):




Expanding sea ice coincided with a colder climate, and not a warmer one.



Global Sea Ice


Finally, let’s take a look at global sea ice area, which has been running above average for most of this year.

  1. June 4, 2014 12:56 pm

    Reblogged this on the WeatherAction Blog.

  2. June 4, 2014 1:01 pm

    In that Lamb passage quoted sure he mentions Arctic max extent around ~1800, Antarctic ~1900. I have The Changing Climate Selected Papers. Alaska was also ice free in last glaciation which suggests the meridional pattern being displaced at various times affecting different areas of both hemispheres.

  3. Green Sand permalink
    June 4, 2014 1:13 pm

    Hi Paul, you may be interested in the following view of Antarctica and the surrounding Southern Oceans from “Earth Wind Map”. It purports to show Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (SSTA):-,-87.31,497

    It shows almost a complete circle of below “average/normal” SSTs around Antarctica.

    The following is from their “About” section found by clicking “Earth”

    “ocean surface temperatures and anomaly from daily average (1981-2011) updated daily”

    “Sea Surface Temperature – Real Time Global SST MMAB / EMC / NCEP ”

    I imagine this would be expected during the sea ice melt season but if it is happening now it can only be aiding the formation of sea ice?

    I have no concept of how accurate “Earth Wind Map” but it is interesting to watch!

  4. dave ward permalink
    June 4, 2014 2:01 pm

    Paul – I suspect you really meant “It is worth noting what Hubert Lamb had to say”

  5. June 4, 2014 7:40 pm

    Reblogged this on Bobertelliott's Blog.

  6. June 5, 2014 1:12 am

    Over the last several months I have noticed that when the southern sea ice growth rate increases that it will be seen that the jet stream has closed in closer to the continent, and the opposite happens when the jet stream breaks up a bit, and widens out. I see a good chance for a record southern sea ice anomaly this year around August or September, and close to 2 mil.

  7. David permalink
    June 5, 2014 1:05 pm

    From what I can make out, the recent upsurge in Antarctic sea ice extent started in the mid 2000s. At least that’s what the 36-month centred running average suggests:

    Yet according to UAH satellite temperature data for the region, there has been no significant change in ocean surface temperatures around Antarctic over that time. The only notable temperature change in Antarctica since 2005 has been a rapid rate of increase in land temperatures:

    Also, the recent IPCC AR5 report commented on accelerated net land ice losses in Antarctica, which it attributed to bottom melt from the ice shelves, which are the termination of land glaciers. The IPCC found that this may have occurred due to warmer sub-surface waters under the shelves, but there wasn’t sufficient data to state this with high confidence at the time.

    Since the last IPCC report, several studies have documented a further increase in the rate of land ice loss from Antarctica (especially the west). Most recently, McMillan et al. (2014) reported on CryoSat-2 satellite data that indicates land ice losses from Antarctica accelerated further between 2010 and 2013:

    Putting this confused picture together, since 2005 in Antarctica we have observed:

    i) increases in sea ice extent;
    ii) little change in regional ocean surface temperatures;
    iii) a rapid increase in land surface temperature;
    iv) acceleration in net land ice loss, especially in West Antarctica;
    v) likely warming of sub-surface waters under ice shelves.

    Could it be the case that Antarctic sea ice extent has increased since the mid 2000s partly as a result of the land ice melt? If not, what other explanation is there?

    • June 5, 2014 3:01 pm

      And yet land temperatures are only back to 1980’s levels, after plunging in the 1990’s.

      Also remember that ice melt from most of Antarctica, the Eastern part, is to all intents and purposes zero.

      And the latest IPCC Report cannot find any explanation for increasing ice.

      Whatever the reason, we can draw two conclusions about the effects:

      1) More sunlight will be reflected back to space.

      2) When the summer melt occurs, the water will become colder, and less saline, which in turn will encourage an early and extensive freeze up again next year.

      • David permalink
        June 5, 2014 4:50 pm

        That’s the odd thing, Paul.

        During periods of similar surface and ocean temperatures in Antarctica, and even during periods when it was much colder there, sea ice was reaching nowhere near the current observed extent. That’s supports the idea that the current record extent is driven by something other than sea surface and surface air temperatures.

        I agree that ‘best estimate’ East Antarctica land ice loss isn’t statistically significant; but losses from both the Peninsula and West Antarctic apparently are, according to the latest articles (e.g. McMillan et al. (2014), referenced above). There is broad agreement in the recent literature that Antarctica as a whole is experiencing a net annual loss of land ice:

        While the IPCC AR5 was at a loss to confidently explain the observed sea ice expansion in Antarctica, it reported with “medium confidence” that the rate of Antarctic land ice loss has increased over the decade up to 2012. McMillan et al. (2014) carried this observed acceleration forward to the end of 2013.

        I agree with your points 1 & 2. This would occur as a positive feedback to whatever it was that initially forced the current observed Antarctic sea ice expansion.

      • June 5, 2014 9:53 pm

        The trouble is, the 35 years of satellite observations we have is like the thickness of a gnats wing. We simply do not know what ice extent has been before, or what is “normal” (even if there is such a thing, which I doubt).

        My guess is that the jet stream is currently zonal, which keeps the cold air in, and partly explains why Australia, for instance, has had a run of hot years.
        In contrast, the Arctic has had a run of meridional jet stream, bringing cold air down to mid latitudes ( explaining cold winters here and in the US recently), and correspondingly taking warm air back up to the Arctic.

        What causes these patterns? I don’t think climatologists have the first clue.

    • June 7, 2014 9:25 am

      How does continental ice “melt” when the land or air temperature never even approaches the melting temperature for any significant period ?

      It seem to me climate scientists must have discovered a new physical property of good old H2O that the rest of science seems to have missed for centuries !

      • Night-Gaunt permalink
        June 19, 2014 9:25 pm

        All it takes is for the underlying ice to reach temperature then melt and then the weight breaks it off and gravity does the rest. So the the ice is still ice except for the layer directly in contact with the ground under it. Does that make sense to you?

  8. June 6, 2014 12:32 pm

    Wow. Too bad it’s not true at all….

  9. June 9, 2014 11:54 am

    Well, that’s what Climate is and what Climate does, and we have thermometers to measure the facts – and as Meinong tells us: “Truth is a purely human construct, but facts are eternal.” So I thought well, temeperatures arise from the zeroeth law of thermodynamics and all the rest is energy shovelling around. What happens if I try measuring ‘Climate’ in energy terms, like kWh or joule? I tried, with the result at . Am I completely bonkers with that, or should we continue to take King Canute seriously?

  10. Arno Arrak permalink
    June 9, 2014 4:44 pm

    It is quite likely that the Arctic ice would also grow at the same rate if it wasn’t for warm Gulf Stream water carried into the Arctic Ocean by North Atlantic currents. It started suddenly at the turn of the twentieth century, prior to which there was nothing in the Arctic but slow cooling for two thousand years. There was no increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide at the time which rules out carbon dioxide greenhouse effect as a possible cause. The warming turned to cooling for thirty years in mid-century, then resumed in 1970, and is still going on. It is quite impossible for greenhouse warming to switch between warming and cooling as happened in the Arctic. You will find a full description in my article that appeared in E&E, volume 22, issue 8, in 2011.

  11. Eric Sims permalink
    June 11, 2014 5:08 pm

    I came across this blog while reading an artical on a new study from the Universtiy of Texas outlining the possible effects of geothermal heat from magma and subaerial volcanoes on the Antarcitc Glacier Melt. Very interesting in light of the man-made global warming.

  12. Brian H permalink
    June 22, 2014 10:46 am

    Note Lamb’s (correct) observation that icebergs and calving result from sheet growth, not recession and shrinkage.


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