Sea ice coverage in opposite parts of the world is marked by stark a contrast. Sea ice in Antarctica continues to expand and is even anticipated to set reach a record high this month while the Arctic ice cap has shrunk to its sixth-lowest level.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) revealed on Tuesday that Antarctic sea ice now covers 7.6 million square miles and is anticipated to set a new record this year as it continues to expand. It is currently only 88,800 square miles away from surpassing the record it has set in 2013.  The expanse of the ice in the Arctic, on the other hand is at 1.96 million square miles, the sixth lowest recorded since tracking began in 1979.

"Arctic sea ice extent for September 15 was 5.07 million square kilometers (1.96 million square miles)," the NSIDC reported. "This is only 30,000 square kilometers (11,600 square miles) below the same date last year, yet sea ice extent remains low compared to the long-term 1981 to 2010 average."

The strong contrast between the two icy regions has something to do with the sea ice shrinking with summer heat and expanding because of the winter cold. While September marks the time when the sea ice in Antarctica often reaches its highest extent due largely to the influence of the weather conditions at the end of the winter in the Southern Hemisphere, it is also the time when the Arctic ice reaches its lowest during the year as the summer is drawing near.

Climate change apparently also play a crucial role in the extreme and contrasting conditions observed in the Antarctic and Arctic sea ice. The summer ice in the arctic sea has significantly declined by about 30 percent in a little over three decades and many attribute this to the changing climate primarily blamed on man-made activities such as the excessive release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Experts, however, suggest that global warming is responsible not just for the long-term decline observed in the Arctic but also the record-breaking ice expansion in Antarctica albeit the impact of climate change appears to be clearer in the Arctic. The record-high sea ice coverage in Antarctica is due to the southern polar vortex being driven closer to the continent by the ozone hole and greenhouse gases  shifting ocean currents in a manner that drive the formation of ice.

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