Antarctic ice tipping point or irregularity

Summer sea ice in Antarctica dropped significantly last year and remains low. Scientists say time is needed (years) to determine if it is a one-off irregularity, or if a tipping point  has been passed and Antarctica is catching up with Arctic warming.



2017 (blue) is similar to an unusual low on 2002 (green), both well below median.

Newshub: ‘Daunting’ Antarctic sea ice plummet could be tipping point

A dramatic drop in the amount of sea ice around Antarctica has scientists wondering if the continent has hit a tipping point.

There has been a record 30 percent decrease in the total amount of sea ice, and this summer it’s disappearing from the Ross Sea at a rate not seen in more than 30 years.

The rapidly changing conditions are having a major impact on this year’s scientific research at Scott Base, with scientists describing the changes as “unusual”, “unprecedented” and “daunting”.

One of the affected scientists is Antarctic oceanographer Dr Natalie Robinson, who studies sea ice and what lies beneath it.

“We had about 200km of sea ice to play with last year, but this year we’re down to about 25-30km, so it’s certainly a very different ball game,” she told Newshub.

The Antarctic sea ice growth in winter and melt in summer is the biggest annual change on the planet. Dr Robinson describes it as the heartbeat or pulse of Earth, and it affects everybody because it drives global weather.


During November the sea ice edge is usually around 100km further north of where it is this year. For it to have broken out this early is a significant change and it’s causing alarms bells to ring.

“This is my 30th trip into the Southern Ocean and Antarctica,” climate scientist Professor Gary Wilson told Newshub.

“Of all the visits I’ve made down here, we haven’t seen the sea ice break out as much as it has this early.”

The sea ice is not only melting ahead of schedule, there’s a lot less of it to begin with. Last year there was 30 percent less ice – a drop of around 1 million square kilometres.

Climate scientists believe Antarctica may have hit a tipping point.

“This could be the moment that Antarctica is catching up with the Arctic,” Prof Wilson said.

Climate scientists will be watching closely over the next few years to establish whether this is a one-off event, or the moment Antarctica began to succumb to a rapidly warming planet.

A problem with monitoring the climate is it can take years to determine whether changes are normal fluctuations or signifying trends – and trends are unlikely to be smooth progressions.


  1. patupaiarehe

     /  November 13, 2017

    A problem with monitoring the climate is it can take years to determine whether changes are normal fluctuations or signifying trends – and trends are unlikely to be smooth progressions.

    Exactly. With under half a century of proper observation under mankind’s belt, I see no evidence of a crisis. I do, however, think it is prudent to keep a close eye on the situation in the ‘really deep south’…

  2. Gerrit

     /  November 14, 2017

    Who to believe,

    “All previous calculations of the trend significance concluded that the positive trend of the entire Antarctic SIE over the past 30 years is statistically highly significant, which indicates the positive trend is explainable using natural variability”.

    Problem with scientist, they cannot agree if SIE is growing, reducing or staying the same.

    End up you only take as correct whichever article confirms your own bias and believe set.

    The truth is out there but who knows where.

  3. Zedd

     /  November 14, 2017

    whats the saying about the ‘stages of grief’ (from Loss) similar to the Natz election defeat; somewhere between anger & denial.. but hopefully most will finally SOON, get to acceptance, so there can be serious efforts to regroup & move FORWARD on this issue ! :/

    BUT obviously some folks are still, totally unaccepting of the FACTS ?!

    • Corky

       /  November 14, 2017

      Correct. What facts?

      • Zedd

         /  November 14, 2017

        What facts;

        1) CO2 & CH4 are ‘Green house gases’ both have massively increased in the last 50 years, due to industrialisation & burning fossil fuels

        2) the sea-ice around the poles HAS decreased in the last decades

        3) glaciers around the world are shrinking

        4) sea-level is rising, even if some deny it

        5) annual snow in Dunedin has decreased, since I have been here (14 years). Almost none in the last 5 years

        6) freak snow storms & weather events; flood in 2015

        Regardless of some ‘alternative views’ these events are increasing & getting more intense. Of course if you ask MrT & co. its all just ‘FAKE NEWS’ but he is the biggest FAKE of all (IMHO) !!

        • David

           /  November 14, 2017

          “2) the sea-ice around the poles HAS decreased in the last decades”

          Not true.

          Antarctica hit a new maximum record in 2014, having been increasing for decades.

          “Since the late 1970s, the Arctic has lost an average of 20,800 square miles (53,900 square kilometers) of ice a year; the Antarctic has gained an average of 7,300 square miles (18,900 sq km). On Sept. 19 this year, for the first time ever since 1979, Antarctic sea ice extent exceeded 7.72 million square miles (20 million square kilometers), according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. ”

          “3) glaciers around the world are shrinking”

          A trend that has been around since the little ice age.

          “4) sea-level is rising, even if some deny it”

          Sea levels have been rising for thousands of years.

          “6) freak snow storms & weather events; flood in 2015”

          There was a flood in 2015? Well, that is a shock!

          • Corky

             /  November 14, 2017

            Franz Joseph Glacier was receding when I visited it during 1971.

          • Zedd

             /  November 14, 2017

            oh dear.. another ostrich called; David

            • David

               /  November 14, 2017

              In what way am I an ostrich? You have made demonstrably false claims, and when I point this out to you, you simple resort to name calling.


  4. MaureenW

     /  November 14, 2017

    OMG 15,000 Scientists issue a dire warning ….They said humans had pushed Earth’s ecosystems to their breaking point and were well on the way to ruining the planet.

    91 Volcanoes beneath the antarctic ice sheet, and some of them are hot !!!

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  November 14, 2017

      So is it the humans or the volcanoes?

      • Zedd

         /  November 14, 2017

        I also hear that all the microwaves now radiating onto us, from the 1000s of satelites in orbit.. (since 1950s) could be having an effect to.. but is that really likely OR has it really got something to do with the MASSIVE increase in ‘Greenhouse gases’ spewing into the atmosphere at record levels, since about mid 20th century ?
        Im sure at least one is correct…………… :/

        Do we really need to continue to speculate OR do some folks need to stop looking for excuses & just face the facts.

        btw; I hear that many of the leading ‘naysayers’ are being funded by the fossil fuel industry & likely all driving V8s & flying their private jets ? 😦

      • MaureenW

         /  November 14, 2017

        I think it’s the 15,000 scientists.

    • Corky

       /  November 14, 2017

      ”91 Volcanoes beneath the antarctic ice sheet, and some of them are hot !!!”

      No shite on these Sherlock’s.