Ice is expanding in much of Antarctica, contrary to the widespread public belief that global warming is melting the continental ice cap.
The results of ice-core drilling and sea ice monitoring indicate there is no large-scale melting of ice over most of Antarctica, although experts are concerned at ice losses on the continent’s western coast.
Antarctica has 90 percent of the Earth’s ice and 80 percent of its fresh water, The Australian reports. Extensive melting of Antarctic ice sheets would be required to raise sea levels substantially, and ice is melting in parts of west Antarctica. The destabilization of the Wilkins ice shelf generated international headlines this month.
However, the picture is very different in east Antarctica, which includes the territory claimed by Australia.
East Antarctica is four times the size of west Antarctica and parts of it are cooling. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research report prepared for last week’s meeting of Antarctic Treaty nations in Washington noted the South Pole had shown “significant cooling in recent decades.”
Australia Antarctic Division glaciology program head Ian Allison said sea ice losses in west Antarctica over the past 30 years had been more than offset by increases in the Ross Sea region, just one sector of east Antarctica.
“Sea ice conditions have remained stable in Antarctica generally,” Allison said.
Ice core drilling in the fast ice off Australia’s Davis Station in East Antarctica by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-Operative Research Center shows that last year, the ice had a maximum thickness of 1.89m, its densest in 10 years.
A paper to be published soon by the British Antarctic Survey in the journal Geophysical Research Letters is expected to confirm that over the past 30 years, the area of sea ice around the continent has expanded.