Antarctic ice floes extended further than ever recorded this southern winter, confounding the world’s most-trusted climate models.

“It’s not expected,” says Professor John Turner, a climate expert at the British Antarctic Survey. “The world’s best 50 models were run and 95% of them have Antarctic sea ice decreasing over the past 30 years.”

The winter ice around the southern continent has been growing relatively constantly since records began in 1979. The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), which monitors sea ice using satellite data, said this week that the year’s maximum was 1.54m sq km (595,000 sq miles) above the 1981-2010 average. The past three winters have all produced record levels of ice.

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