Battering storms caused Antarctic sea ice to shrink at record pace | Science News

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Battering storms caused Antarctic sea ice to shrink at record pace

Extreme weather pattern led to daily loss of nearly South Carolina‒sized chunk

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7:00am, June 27, 2017
Antarctica

MAJOR MELTDOWN  Southern Ocean storms in 2016 brought intense, warm winds that broke up Antarctica’s fragile sea ice and hastened its usual springtime melting.

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Unusually severe storms in 2016 wrought the quickest meltdown of Antarctic sea ice ever seen during a Southern Hemisphere spring. This could explain why Antarctica’s sea ice extent hit a record low earlier this year.

Satellite images show that the extent of Antarctic sea ice decreased by an average of 75,000 square kilometers — almost the area of South Carolina — each day from September through December 2016. That was 18 percent faster than the previous record melt rate for this time of year and nearly 50 percent faster than average, researchers report online June 20 in Geophysical Research Letters.

Typically, the ring of sea ice surrounding Antarctica expands and contracts over the course of a year, usually peaking at around 18 million square kilometers in September, then

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