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They'll also learn about the great uncertainties plaguing research into this southernmost continent and its link to global warming: How much is Antarctica warming? How much ice is melting into the sea? How high might it raise ocean levels worldwide?
Outspoken scientists say political action may be even more urgently needed.
"We are out of our cotton-pickin' minds if we let that process get started," Hansen said of an Antarctic meltdown. "Because there will be no stopping it."
While the North Pole has been losing sea ice over the years, the water nearest the South Pole has been gaining it. Antarctic sea ice hit a record 7.51 million square miles in September. That happened just days after reports of the biggest loss of Arctic sea ice on record.
Those changes in wind are tied in a complicated way to climate change from greenhouse gases, Maksym and Scambos say. Climate change has created essentially a wall of wind that keeps cool weather bottled up in Antarctica, NASA’s Abdalati says.
Winter sea ice has grown by about 1 percent a decade in Antarctica. If that sounds small, it’s because it’s an average. Because the continent is so large, it’s a little like lumping together the temperatures of the Maine and California coasts, Vaughan says.