NOTE: Unlike in former years, when the USA has fielded both fully staffed NOAA, NWS, and USCG with their ice breakers equipped for the BEST NOAA scientists and researchers, THIS YEAR they are furloughed by President Trump.
“On January 1, 2019 Antarctic sea ice extent stood at 5.47 million square kilometers (2.11 million square miles), the lowest extent on this date in the satellite record (since 1978). This value is 30,000 square kilometers (11,600 square miles) below the previous record low for January 1, set in 2017, and 1.88 million square kilometers (726,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average. Extent declined at a rate of 253,000 square kilometers (97,700 square miles) per day through December, considerably faster than the 1981 to 2010 mean for December of 214,000 square kilometers (82,600 square miles) per day.
Indeed, the rate of Antarctic ice extent loss for December 2018 is the fastest in the satellite record, albeit close to 2010 and 2005.” – NSDIC
One journalist’s view… Maddie Stone
“…Antarctica rang in the new year with record-low levels of sea ice, according to an update released Thursday by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSDIC). On January 1, sea ice covered a paltry 2.11 million square miles of water in the Southern Ocean rimming the continent, which is 726,000 square miles below the long-term average for that date. This bizarre start to 2019 followed the most rapid December surge of sea ice loss on record, causing the Antarctic to eclipse record lows set just two years back, in the austral summer of 2016—2017.
“Notably, the November to December 2016 period was considered an extreme excursion of Antarctic sea ice at the time,” the NSDIC wrote.
You might think: Duh, this is climate change. And that could be part of it! But an analysis conducted after the 2016-2017 sea ice crash—which culminated in a record seasonal sea ice minimum in March 2017—concluded that a spate of freak weather coinciding with an extremely negative phase of the Southern Annular Mode, where the westerly winds circling the continent migrate north, was to blame.
In short, scientists pinned the last sea ice nosedive on natural variability. But it’s currently unclear what’s behind this year’s ice crash. Notably, University of Washington sea ice researcher Cecilia Bitz told Earther that the Southern Annular Mode is not strongly negative at the moment. Nor are we still nursing the hangover of a monster El Niño, as we were at the end of 2016.
“I think we have to go back to the drawing board a little bit,” Bitz told this reporter.