Antarctic ice sheet

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The Antarctic ice sheet is one of the two polar ice caps of the Earth. It covers about 98% of the Antarctic continent and is the largest single mass of ice on Earth. It covers an area of almost 14 million square kilometers(5.4 million square miles) and contains 26.5 million cubic kilometers (6,400,000 cubic miles) of ice. Approximately 61 percent of all fresh water on the Earth is held in the Antarctic ice sheet, an amount equivalent to about 58 m of sea-level rise. In East Antarctica, the ice sheet rests on a major land mass, while in West Antarctica the bed can extend to more than 2,500 m below sea level.

In contrast to the melting of the Arctic sea ice, sea ice around Antarctica was expanding as of 2013. The reasons for this are not fully understood, but suggestions include the climatic effects on ocean and atmospheric circulation of the ozone hole, and/or cooler ocean surface temperatures as the warming deep waters melt the ice shelves.