Three sea ice data sets commonly used for climate research display a large and abrupt increase in Antarctic sea ice area (SIA) in recent years. This unprecedented change of SIA is diagnosed to be primarily caused by an apparent sudden increase in sea ice concentrations within the ice pack, especially in the area of the most-concentrated ice (greater than 95% concentration). A series of alternative satellite-derived records do not display any abnormal sudden SIA changes, but do reveal substantial discrepancies between different satellite sensors and sea ice algorithms. Sea ice concentrations in the central ice pack and SIA values derived from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for the Earth Observing System (AMSRE) are consistently greater than those derived from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSMI). A switch in source data from the SSMI to AMSRE in mid-2009 explains most of the SIA increase in all three affected data sets. If uncorrected for, the discontinuity artificially exaggerates the winter Antarctic SIA increase (1979–2010) by more than a factor of 2 and the spring trend by almost a factor of 4. The discontinuity has a weaker influence on the summer and autumn SIA trends, on calculations of Antarctic sea ice extent, and in the Arctic.