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2015 Antarctic maximum sea ice extent breaks record highs

The Sheldon Glacier with Mount Barre in the background, is seen from Ryder Bay near Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctica, in this NASA/British Antarctic Survey handout photo. Sea levels could rise by 2.3 metres for each degree Celsius that global temperatures increase and they will remain high for centuries to come, according to a new study by Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, released on July 15, 2013.  REUTERS/NASA/British Antarctic Survey/Handout via Reuters  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENVIRONMENT) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX11NGF
The Sheldon Glacier with Mount Barre in the background, is seen from Ryder Bay near Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctica, in this NASA/British Antarctic Survey handout photo. Sea levels could rise by 2.3 metres for each degree Celsius that global temperatures increase and they will remain high for centuries to come, according to a new study by Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, released on July 15, 2013. REUTERS/NASA/British Antarctic Survey/Handout via Reuters (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENVIRONMENT) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX11NGF

Washington: Antarctic maximum sea ice extent has broken a streak of record highs.

The sea ice cover of the Southern Ocean reached its yearly maximum extent on Oct. 6. At 7.27 million square miles (18.83 million square kilometers), the new maximum extent falls roughly in the middle of the record of Antarctic maximum extents compiled during the 37 years of satellite measurements – this year’s maximum extent is both the 22nd lowest and the 16th highest.

More remarkably, this year’s maximum is quite a bit smaller than the previous three years, which correspond to the three highest maximum extents in the satellite era, and is also the lowest since 2008.

The growth of Antarctic sea ice was erratic this year: sea ice was at much higher than normal levels throughout much of the first half of 2015 until, in mid-July, it flattened out and even went below normal levels in mid-August.

The sea ice cover recovered partially in September, but still this year’s maximum extent is 513,00 square miles (1.33 million square kilometers) below the record maximum extent, which was set in 2014. Scientists believe this year’s strong El Nino event, a natural phenomenon that warms the surface waters of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, had an impact on the behavior of the sea ice cover around Antarctica.

After three record high extent years, this year marks a return toward normalcy for Antarctic sea ice, said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, adding there may be more high years in the future because of the large year-to-year variation in Antarctic extent, but such extremes are not near as substantial as in the Arctic, where the declining trend towards a new normal is continuing.

This year’s maximum extent occurred fairly late: the mean date of the Antarctic maximum is Sept. 23 for 1981-2010. (ANI)