Climatic Change

, Volume 92, Issue 3–4, pp 461–493 | Cite as

Changes in Antarctic sea-ice extent from direct historical observations and whaling records

  • William K. de la MareEmail author


Changes in the extent of Antarctic sea-ice are difficult to quantify for the pre-satellite era. The available direct data are sparse. A substantially larger set of proxy records based on whaling positions indicated a large shift in whaling positions between the 1930s to 1950s compared with whaling positions in the 1970s to mid 1980s. However, these findings have been questioned. Further analyses here using historic ice charts, direct sea-ice observations and whaling positions agree that a substantial southward shift in the ice-edge did occur. The analyses indicate the average change is around 1.89° to 2.80° of latitude with a reasonable mid-range estimate of 2.41°. Regional analyses show that the largest changes occurred in the South Atlantic, but change is also detected across the Indian Ocean to the Ross Sea; a 220° span of longitude. A recently published proposition that the shift in ice-edges is an artefact caused by bias in the satellite derived records is not supported.


Antarctic Peninsula Eastern Indian Ocean Passive Microwave Minke Whale Indian Ocean Region 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ackley S, Wadhams P, Comiso J, Worby A (2003) Decadal decrease of Antarctic sea ice extent inferred from whaling records revisited on the basis of historical and modern sea ice records. Polar Res 22(1):19–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agnew T, Howell S (2003) The use of operational ice charts for evaluating passive microwave ice concentration data. Atmos Ocean 41(4):317–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brierley AS, Fernandes PG, Brandon MA, Armstrong F, Millard NW, McPhail SD, Stevenson P, Peabody M, Perrett J, Squires M, Bone DG, Griffiths G (2002) Antarctic krill under the sea ice: elevated abundance in a narrow band just south of the ice edge. Science 295:1890–1892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Comiso J, Cavalieri DJ, Parkinson CL, Gloersen P (1997) Passive microwave algorithms for sea ice concentration: a comparison of two techniques. Remote Sens Environ 60:357–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cooke AJ, Fox AJ, Vaughan DG, Ferrigno JG (2005) Retreating glacier fronts on the Antarctic Peninsula over the past half century. Science 308:541–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Croxall JP, Trathan PN, Murphy EJ (2002) Environmental change and Antarctic seabird populations. Science 297:1510–1514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Curran MAJ, van Ommen TD, Morgan VI, Phillips KL, Palmer AS (2003) Ice core evidence for sea ice decline since the 1950s. Science 302:1203–1206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. de la Mare WK (1997) Abrupt mid-twentieth century decline in Antarctic sea-ice extent from whaling records. Nature 389:57–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. de la Mare WK (2002) Whaling records and sea ice: consistency with historical records. Polar Rec 38:355–358Google Scholar
  10. Frenot Y, Gloaguen J-C, Trehen P (1997) Climate change in the Kerguelen Islands and colonisation of recently de-glaciated areas by Poa kerguelensis and P. annua. In: Battaglia B, Valencia J, Walton DWH (eds) Antarctic communities: species, structure and survival. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 358–366Google Scholar
  11. Frezotti M, Polizzi M (2002) 50 years of ice-front changes between the Adelie and Banzare Coasts, East Antarctica. Ann Glaciol 34:235–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hansen HE (1934) Limits of the pack-ice in the Antarctic in the area between 40°W and 110°E. Hvalradets Skr 9:39–41Google Scholar
  13. Harangozo SA (1998) An intercomparison of Antarctic sea ice extent data sets from the US Joint Ice Center (JIC) and satellite passive microwave observations for 1979–88. Antarct Sci 10(2):204–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hart TJ (1934) On the phytoplankton of the southwest Atlantic and the Bellingshausen sea. Discov Rep 8:1–208Google Scholar
  15. Heap J (1964) Pack ice. In: Priestley R (ed) Antarctic research. London, Butterworths, pp 308–317Google Scholar
  16. Hjort J, Lie J, Ruud JT (1933) Norwegian pelagic whaling in the Antarctic III. Hvalradets Skr 8:4–36Google Scholar
  17. Horwood J (1987) The sei whale: population biology, ecology & management. Croom Helm, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Horwood J (1990) Biology and exploitation of the minke whale. CRC, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  19. Isaaksson E, Melvold K (2002) Trends and patterns in accumulation and oxygen isotopes in coastal Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica: interpretations from shallow ice cores. Ann Glaciol 35:175–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jacka TH (1990) Antarctic and Southern Ocean sea-ice and climate trends. Ann Glaciol 14:127–130Google Scholar
  21. Jacka TH (1999) Northern Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice.
  22. Jacobs SS, Comiso JC (1997) Climate variability in the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas. J Climate 10:697–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kasamatsu F, Joyce GG, Ensor P, Mermoz J (1996) Current occurrence of baleen whales in Antarctic waters. Rep Int Whal Comm 46:293–304Google Scholar
  24. Kiernan K, McConnell A (2002) Glacier retreat and melt-lake expansion at Stephenson Glacier, Heard Island World Heritage Area. Polar Rec 38(207):297–308Google Scholar
  25. Kukla G, Gavin J (1981) Summer ice and carbon dioxide. Science 214:497–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mackintosh NA (1965) The stocks of whales. Fishing News (Books) Ltd., London, 232 ppGoogle Scholar
  27. Mackintosh NA (1972) Life cycle of Antarctic krill in relation to ice and water conditions. Discov Rep 36:1–94Google Scholar
  28. Mackintosh NA, Herdman HFP (1940) Distribution of the pack-ice in the Southern Ocean. Discov Rep 19:285–296Google Scholar
  29. Masson-Delmotte V, Delmotte M, Morgan V, Etheridge D, van Ommen T, Tartarin S, Hoffman G (2003) Recent southern Indian Ocean climate variability inferred from a Law Dome ice core: new insights for the interpretation of coastal Antarctic isotopic records. Clim Dyn 21:153–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Meyerson EA, Mayewski PA, Kreutz KJ, Meeker LD, Whitlow SI, Twickler MS (2002) The polar expression of ENSO and sea-ice variability as recorded in a South Pole ice core. Ann Glaciol 35:430–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Morgan VI, Goodwin ID, Etheridge DM, Wookey CW (1991) Evidence from Antarctic ice cores for recent increases in snow accumulation. Nature 354:58–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mulvaney R, Oerter H, Peel DA, Graf W, Arrowsmith C, Pasteur EC, Knight B, Littot GC, Miners WD (2002) 1000 year ice-core records from Berkner Island, Antarctica. Ann Glaciol 35:45–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Murphy EJ, Clarke A, Symon C, Priddle J (1995) Temporal variation in Antarctic Sea-ice: analysis of a long term fast ice record from the South Orkney Islands. Deep-sea Res 42:1045–1062CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nelder JA, Wedderburn RWM (1972) Generalised linear models. J R Stat Soc A 135:370–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Parkinson CL (2004) Southern Ocean sea ice and its wider linkages: insights revealed from models and observations. Antarc Sci 16(4):387–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Partington KC (2000) A data fusion algorithm for mapping sea-ice concentrations from special sensor microwave/imager data. IEEE Trans Geosci Remote Sens 38(4):1947–1958CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. R Development Core Team (2004) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
  38. Ropelewski CF (1995) NOAA/NMC/CAC Arctic and Antarctic monthly sea ice extent. National Snow and Ice Data Center (Digital Media), Boulder, CO. Google Scholar
  39. Schlosser E, Oerter H (2002) Shallow firn cores from Neumayer, Ekstromisen, Antarctica: a comparison of accumulation rates and stable-isotope ratios. Ann Glaciol 35:91–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shimadzu Y, Katabami YA (1984) A note on the information on the pack ice edge obtained by Japanese catcher boats in the Antarctic. Rep Int Whal Comm 34:361–363Google Scholar
  41. Smith WOJ, Nelson DM (1985) Phytoplankton bloom produced by a receding ice-edge in the Ross Sea: spatial coherence with the density field. Science 227:163–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sun J, Ren J, Qin D (2002) 60 years record of biogenic sulphur from Lambert Glacier basin firn core, East Antarctica. Ann Glaciol 35:363–367Google Scholar
  43. Tønnessen JN, Johnsen AO (1982) History of modern whaling. C. Hurst & Co, LondonGoogle Scholar
  44. Van Woert ML (2002) U. S. Navy operational sea ice remote sensing. IGARSS Proceedings, INTI_A32_04, Toronto, Canada, 24–28 JuneGoogle Scholar
  45. Vaughan S (2000) Can Antarctic sea ice extent be determined from whaling records? Polar Rec 36:345–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Vaughan DG, Marshall GJ, Connolley WM, Parkinson C, Mulvaney R, Hodgson DA, King JC, Pudsey CJ, Turner J (2003) Recent rapid regional climate warming on the Antarctic Peninsula. Clim Change 60:243–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Weimerskirch H, Inchausti P, Guinet C, Barbraud C (2003) Trends in bird and seal populations as indicators of a system shift in the Southern Ocean. Antarct Sci 15(2):249–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Worby AP, Comiso JC (2004) Studies of the Antarctic sea ice edge and ice extent from satellite and ship observations. Remote Sens Environ 92:98–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zemsky VA, Berzin AA, Mikhalyev YA, Tormosov DD (1995) Soviet Antarctic whaling data (1947–1972). Center for Russian Environmental Policy, MoscowGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Resource and Environmental ManagementSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  2. 2.Division of Marine and Atmospheric ResearchCSIROClevelandAustralia

Personalised recommendations