After decades of seeming to buck the climate change trend by experiencing moderate increases in sea ice, Antarctica's sea ice recently fell to its lowest extent ever recorded. March 3, 2017 marked the lowest sea ice extent recorded for Antarctica since 1979, when NASA began regularly mapping sea ice at both poles. This year’s record low happened just two years after several monthly record high sea ice extents in Antarctica and decades of moderate sea ice growth. In fact, NASA scientists believe that snow and ice began accumulating on Antarctica 10,000 years ago.
The Antarctic ice sheet, together with the Greenland ice sheet, comprise 99 percent of the world's freshwater sea ice. The Antarctic ice sheet covers roughly 5.4 million square miles, or the about the size of the United States and Mexico combined. This information comes from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, an organization supported by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Science Foundation.
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