India-sized Gap in Polar Ice Totals

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December 6, 2016

An expanse of polar ice the size of India has disappeared, scientists say.

Measurements taken on December 4 show that the extent of polar sea ice was 1.48 square million miles below average. That's an area about the size of India, or twice the size of Alaska. Scientists at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center confirmed the results, which were compared against averages from 1981 to 2010. In particular, measured temperatures in some parts of the Arctic region were 36 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal in November.

Moreover, the scientists said, that total decrease of polar ice covered both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The amount of ice floating in the Southern Ocean has grown in recent years.

A number of factors can cause a decrease in polar ice. Two that scientists cited as possible causes for 2016 were an especially powerful El Niño, which stirred up extra heat from within the Pacific Ocean, and an overall increase in global temperatures. Most forecasts of world temperatures predict that 2016 will be the warmest on record.

The previous low in polar sea ice was in 2006 for the Arctic region and in 1982 for the Antarctic region.

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