2012 will go down as the year when we all became experts in sea ice.
Records were smashed in the North and South Poles. Arctic sea ice shrunk to its lowest seasonal minimum since satellite records began, the strongest indication yet that climate change is warming the planet, according to scientists.
The melt in the Arctic could mean more sunlight is absorbed by the waters that reflect less heat than the ice. Scientists have also warned that methane deposits on the ocean floors could melt, evaporate and enter the atmosphere. Arctic sea ice melt has also been linked to severe winter weather in the US and Northern Europe.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Colorado has put together two animations observing conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. Both are below, starting with the North Pole.
On the other side of the world, another record was broken, as winter sea ice extent in Antarctica reached a record high.
The NSIDC say the extent increase in the Antarctic could be as response to changes in circulation patterns in the Southern Hemisphere, as well as cooling winds and snowfall.
Trying to compare the sea ice in the two regions can be very problematic. Here’s why.