The massive apron of sea ice that encircles Antarctica at the end of each winter has been steadily expanding. From 1978 to 2010, Antarctic sea ice has grown on average each year by an area about equal to the size of Connecticut. In October 2012 Antarctic sea ice covered a record 7.5 million square miles, more than twice the land area of the contiguous U.S. The sea ice around Antarctica melts almost completely each summer and then grows rapidly each winter. Scientists think a change in atmospheric circulation could be contributing to the ice growth. The continent's unsheltered coastline allows harsh winds to push the ice out into the ocean, and as these winds have strengthened in recent years sea ice has expanded. The visualization uses NASA satellite data to show how winter sea ice completely engulfs Antarctica.
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Sea ice photo courtesy of Michael Studinger