Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has indicated a dramatic increase in sea ice extent in the Arctic regions. The growth over the past year covers an area of 700,000 square kilometers: an amount twice the size the nation of Germany.
With the Arctic melting season over for 2008, ice cover will continue to increase until melting begins anew next spring.
The data is for August 2008 and indicates a total sea ice area of six million square kilometers. Ice extent for the same month in 2007 covered 5.3 million square kilometers, a historic low. Earlier this year, media accounts were rife with predictions that this year would again see a new record. Instead, the Arctic has seen a gain of about thirteen percent.
William Chapman, a researcher with the Arctic Climate Research Center at the University of Illinois, tells DailyTech that this year the Arctic was "definitely colder" than 2007. Chapman also says part of the reason for the large ice loss in 2007 was strong winds from Siberia, which affect both ice formation and drift, forcing ice into warmer waters where it melts.
Earlier predictions were also wrong because researchers thought thinner ice would melt faster in subsequent years. Instead, according to the NSIDC, the new ice had less snow coverage to insulate it from the bitterly cold air, resulting in a faster rate of ice growth.
Most concern has focused on the Arctic regions, rather than Antarctica. Recent research has indicated Antarctica is on a long-term cooling trend, for reasons which remain unclear.
Earlier this year, concerns over global warming led the US to officially list the polar bear a threatened species, over objections from experts who claimed the animal's numbers were increasing.