Recent salinity changes in the Southern Ocean are among the most prominent signals of climate change in the global ocean, yet their underlying causes have not been firmly established. Here we propose that trends in the northward transport of Antarctic sea ice are a major contributor to these changes. Using satellite observations supplemented by sea-ice reconstructions, we estimate that wind-driven northward freshwater transport by sea ice increased by 20 ± 10 per cent between 1982 and 2008.

A model analysis of the uptake of carbon dioxide in the North Atlantic carries with it a cautionary reminder about interpreting what may be short-term trends as signals of long-term climate change.