There’s no doubt that growing Antarctic sea ice is a mystery in the climate system — and an anomalous, seemingly contrary indicator.
According to Hansen’s thinking, expanding Antarctic sea ice is precisely what you would expect to see if the Antarctic continent itself is losing a lot of ice mass from its vast ice sheet, adding to sea level rise.
The thinking goes like this: As ice shelves melt, and more inland ice slides towards the sea, a gigantic volume of cold, fresh water enters the ocean. This freshwater pulse, the researchers continue, promotes ocean “stratification,” in which a cold surface layer lies atop a subsurface warmer layer. The cold surface layer promotes more sea ice growth atop open water, while the warm lower layer sneaks beneath that ice and continues to melt submerged ice shelves, which plunge deep into the water at the fringes of the continent.
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