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Why One Pole Melts and the Other Doesn't

Different Things are happening at the top and bottom of our world: Antarctica is gaining MORE ice, at the same time that glaciers are melting in the Arctic. What's causing this strange discrepancy? The wind.

Changing wind patterns around Antarctica have caused a small increase in sea ice, as a result of cold winds off the continent blowing ice away from the coastline.

In the November 11th edition of the Guardian, Damian Carrington quotes researcher Paul Holland as saying, "Until now these changes in ice drift were only speculated upon using computer models. Our study of direct satellite observations shows the complexity of climate change.

"The Arctic is losing sea ice five times faster than the Antarctic is gaining it, so, on average, the Earth is losing sea ice very quickly. There is no inconsistency between our results and global warming."

Another part of the explanation is that Antarctica is a continent surrounded by an ocean, while the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by a continent, thus sea ice can't expand the same way in the Arctic as it does at the southern pole, because if winds pushed the ice away from that pole, the ice would quickly hit land.

He told Whitley in 1998, when he burst into his hotel room in Toronto, and Whitley listened--and did something about it.



Climate is complex and there is variation within and between poles, but overall ice is being lost around both poles. East Antarctica is gaining ice, but West Antarctica is losing it faster.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6111/1183
Science 30 November 2012:
Vol. 338 no. 6111 pp. 1183-1189

"Between 1992 and 2011, the ice sheets of Greenland, East Antarctica, West Antarctica, and the Antarctic Peninsula changed in mass by –142 ± 49, +14 ± 43, –65 ± 26, and –20 ± 14 gigatonnes year−1, respectively. Since 1992, the polar ice sheets have contributed, on average, 0.59 ± 0.20 millimeter year−1 to the rate of global sea-level rise."

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