Seasonal Antarctic Sea Ice

  • Released Thursday, September 29th, 2011
  • Updated Friday, August 25th, 2023 at 12:01AM
  • ID: 3862

Antarctica is a land mass surrounded by an ocean which allows the sea ice here to move more freely than it does in the Northern Hemisphere. Because there are no surrounding continents to limit its movement, the sea ice is free to float northward into warmer waters where it eventually melts. As a result, almost all of the sea ice that forms during the Antarctic winter melts during the summer. During the winter, up to 18 million square kilometers (6.9 million square miles) of ocean is covered by sea ice, but by the end of summer, only about 3 million square kilometers (1.1 million square miles) of sea ice remain. Antarctic sea ice extent are characterized by fairly large variations from year to year. The monthly average extent can vary by as much as 1 million square kilometers (386,102 square miles) from the year-to-year monthly average.

The AMSR-E instrument on the Aqua satellite acquires high resolution measurements of the 89 GHz brightness temperature near the poles. Because this is a passive microwave sensor which is not so sensitive to atmospheric effects, this sensor is able to observe the entire polar region every day, even through clouds and snowfall. The false color in this animation of sea ice surrounding the South Pole is derived from the daily AMSR-E 6.25 km 89 GHz brightness temperature while the sea ice extent is derived from the daily AMSR-E 12.5 km sea ice concentration. The sea ice extent shown is generated using a three day moving average where the daily sea ice concentration is at least 15%. This animation portrays the changes in the sea ice from May 26, 2009 through July 29, 2010.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio


This visualization is related to the following missions:

Datasets used in this visualization

Aqua Sea Ice Concentration (A.K.A. Daily L3 12.5km Tb, Sea Ice Concentration, and Snow Depth) (Collected with the AMSR-E sensor)
Aqua Daily L3 6.25 km 89 GHz Brightness Temperature (Tb) (Collected with the AMSR-E sensor)
Landsat-7 LIMA (A.K.A. Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica) (Collected with the ETM+ sensor)
Mosaic NASA/GSFC, British Antarctic Survey, USGS EROS Data Center 12/25/1999 - 12/31/2001

Mosaicing to avoid clouds produced a high quality, nearly cloud-free benchmark data set of Antarctica for the International Polar Year from images collected primarily during 1999-2003.

Dataset can be found at:

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