The North and South Poles, that is. Scientists tracking global warming have known for some time that the Arctic sea ice is melting, at a rate of about 9% each decade. A new Nasa-study, however, shows that the opposite may be true for the other end of the world. Sea ice volume may actually be increasing in the Antarctic's Southern Ocean.

What's different about the Antarctic? In the northern hemisphere, a warmer climate has led to increased melting rates of sea ice cover (and a longer summer season for sea melt). But in the south, it appears that increased precipitation is causing more snow; and this additional snow is so heavy that it pushes the sea ice below sea level. When the snow on top freezes as more ice, the overall thickness and volume of sea ice increases.

What does it mean? Research scientists at NASA aren't exactly sure. They do know that what happens at the poles affects life everywhere else on the globe. That's because the oceans circulate in reaction to what happens in the north and south poles—where warmer water from the lower latitudes freezes into sea ice as it reaches the surface, releasing salt in the process and pushing down the cooler, salty water to circulate back towards the equator.

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