Ted Scambos, the lead scientist at NSIDC, said: “Antarctic sea ice really went down the rabbit hole this time.” His colleague Walt Meier, who also works at Nasa, added: “The Arctic has typically been where the most interest lies, but this month, the Antarctic has flipped the script and it is southern sea ice that is surprising us.”
In the vast and chaotic climate systems that govern our atmosphere and oceans, making sense of how one change — diminished sea ice — affects places or people thousands of miles away is a task of such extraordinary complexity that it strains even the most sophisticated supercomputers.
The majority of the pieces, 54 percent, were rayon, a manmade material created out of cellulose and used to make clothing, cigarette butts, disposable diapers and other personal-hygiene products, among other consumer goods. The rest were pieces of various other types of polymers — polyester, nylon, polypropylene, polystyrene, acrylic and polyethylene. Identifying the tiny pieces fell largely to Thompson, whose research has focused on marine debris, Obbard said.