Arctic ice levels hit historic low, researchers say
Melting ice is visible near Greenland's Ilulissat glacier, one of the areas seeing the effects of global warming in the Arctic.
September 12th, 2011
11:07 AM ET

Arctic ice levels hit historic low, researchers say

The amount of Arctic sea ice has melted to a historic low, with the area of land covered by ice at the smallest level since scientists began observing it with satellites in 1972, researchers from the University of Bremen in Germany report.

The North Pole skull cap shrank to about half a percent under the previous record low set in September 2007, according to the school's Institute of Environmental Physics.

Researchers, including those from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, had predicted earlier this summer that Arctic sea ice levels could reach extreme lows. But the University of Bremen physicists said there was uncertainty in July about whether the ice melt would surpass the previous record.

They said their studies indicated that continuing ice decline was related to man-made global warming.

"It seems to be clear that this is a further consequence of the man-made global warming with global consequences," researchers said in their report.  "Directly, the livehood of small animals, algae, fishes and mammals like polar bears and seals is more and more reduced."

Read the report (PDF)

As Arctic sea ice has continued to decline, it also has become drastically thinner overall, the report said.

The researchers said that previously the melting ice had been attributed to yearly weather anomalies. But now it is believed the massive melt is due in part to global warming and the increasing albedo effect, which has to do with the power of the surface to reflect sun. As more ice melts, instead of having white ice reflect more of the sun's rays, you have a larger amount of open water that absorbs those same rays. Therefore, warmer temperatures lead to even more ice melting.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center did not have updated data to confirm the German report but said it expected the historic low to be hit based on the past few weeks' data.  Its site is only up to date to September 6. The historic levels were reached two days later. The center said it would "make a preliminary announcement when ice extent has stopped declining and has increased for several days in a row" and said it would release monthly data for September early next month.

The large-scale thaw is cause for concern, according to Shaye Wolf, climate science director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.

“This stunning loss of Arctic sea ice is yet another wake-up call that climate change is here now and is having devastating effects around the world,” Wolf said in a statement.

The receding ice is also opening up a war for oil resources.

The Climate Law Institute noted the record followed news that this summer was the second-hottest since 1895.

In 2009, studies began suggesting the Arctic Ocean could be "largely ice free" during summer within a decade.

One of those reports, complied by the UK-based Catlin Arctic Survey and the World Wildlife Fund, showed that researchers predicted that within 20 years ice cover will be completely gone during the warmer months.

soundoff (835 Responses)
  1. wndsrfr

    South is the new North.....eh reverse that.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. J

    While the Arctic continues to melt, New York continues to face monstrous winters.
    Each year you fear monger by promising "WARMEST WINTER", and then by February it is below zero with a snowpocalypse!

    September 12, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • f

      LOL !!! Last winter on Long Island I shoveled over 36 inches of global warming from December to April.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      You know absolutely nothing about GLOBAL warming don't you?

      September 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • UFOPilot

      With more water vapor in the atmosphere, naturally you'll end up with more precipitation.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • AmesIA

      Weather is not climate and local weather is certainly not global climate. To say that global warming is fact or fiction based on one season of weather in one city would be about equivalent to saying the economy is booming again because Joe at the local tire store got a long overdue raise.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • patNY

      All that extra moisture in the air during last winter in NY was the result of man made global warming, ergo, the extra snow...and it blew up warming air to the North Pole. You idiots know nothing about global warming!!!!

      September 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Typical kook aid drinker, never bothering to consider the GLOBAL in warming OR the wild weather changes predicted by it, only focusing on "it was cold this winter and we had a lot of snow".
      EVERY climatologist on the planet agrees with global warming being a real phenomena, some politicians disagree to protect their campaign contributors and it's not real.
      Brilliant!

      September 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grand Oil Party

      You are showing your ignorance. Increased intensity of winter is a byproduct of global warming.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • j

      Hey moron, try to keep up. Global warming is a term for CLIMATE CHANGE. It does not mean everything gets warmer. Some places will get warmer some colder. Mostly we will see dramatic shifts in weather patterns like yurt snowy colder than normal winters.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Climate Changes

      You're such an idiot...it's not saying that in manhattan they will have the coldest winter ever... it's all about climate change. Changes in temperature for the entire world, both up and down.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • BornWithABrain

      Extreme weather swings, including freezing Winters, are precisely what happens with Global Warming. But, high school dropouts can't fathom this science....or any science.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      One cold winter does not discount that global warming is happening, as the average global temperature continues to rise year after year. The 2010 winter was unusually harsh due to a shift the arctic oscillation that drove arctic air down toward the US. Discounting a theory that 97% of climatologist believe is no different than not believing the theory of evolution...or the theory of gravity.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Carbon Dioxide can hold more water vapor, more CO2 in the atmosphere, more moisture. Your winter's temperature will probably not change much, but if you live in the North East, I would prepare for more snow each winter due to the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Sad thing is, you probably see no connection between the two issues and were being sarcastic about it...

      September 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    @ken:
    Except they're talking about the Artic, now Antartica, no matter what the pretty picture says.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. humble horrace

    BS...pure BS and junkScience from the likes of Al Goron.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • jeff

      Really? Still denying Global warming. Just like evolution and the "Theory" of gravity too, huh?

      September 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      So, your politician, who is protecting his industrialist campaign contributor is right, every climatologist on the face of the Earth is wrong. Every themometer lies. Math lies.
      Politicians tell the truth when they're bought off.
      We know who the moron is, it's not Gore or the climatologists.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • BornWithABrain

      The junk is in your tiny, high school dropout brain.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thersa

      The man who knows more than the scientists and tells us that our eyes are lying to us is "humble?"

      September 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dino Droppings

      Dear humble

      Dont get too close or you will fall of the edge.

      September 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dino Droppings

      Who is Al Goron ?

      September 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • rhythman

      Really? Who was your earth science professor, Rush Limbaugh? I guess the earth is indeed flat and at the center of the universe.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus in MN

      I wish to coin a new law: Gore's Law. It's analogous to Godwin's Law, which states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (100%). Gore's Law states that as any online discussion about climate grows longer, a conservative will make an irrelevant ad hominem attack on Al Gore. Marcus' Corollary to Gore's Law states that the person making the ad hominem attack doesn't know what "ad hominem" means.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus in MN

      Oops. I cannot coin Gore's Law because someone else has already done so! My bad. Great minds think alike, I guess.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      "Really? Who was your earth science professor, Rush Limbaugh? I guess the earth is indeed flat and at the center of the universe."

      You lie. Everybody knows that Rush Limbaugh is the center of the universe. And he's certainly not flat.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Hey You

    The amount of Arctic sea ice has melted to a historic low, with the area of land covered by ice at the smallest level since scientists began observing it with satellites in 1972...

    1) I did not know that SEA ice covered land.
    2) Lowest in history – a history that goes all the way back to 1972.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • f

      There were no people before 1972. How old do you think these treehugging hippies are anyway?

      September 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron Burgundy

      The last 39 years is a super huge sample size for a planet that's been around billions of years. We should be really worried about that. It's science.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      You're absolutely right! Canada didn't map the sea ice to see of the northwest passage was open or able to be broken open, not at all!
      Nobody EVER looked at Greenland. Nobody does even now. Nobody looks at mountain glaciers nor have they ever, right?
      Just another idiot who prefers to listen to bought off politicians, rather than listen to every climatologist on the planet.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Canada has studied the north for over a century. Glaciers have been studied for two centuries.
      Oh, that's right, Canada didn't discover travel by sea until 1972, right? Glaciers were just discovered in 1972, right?
      The SATELLITE DATA is the only data source that goes back to 1972 only. Scientific measurements and notes go back centuries.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron Burgundy

      This story is about ice levels since 1972 not the last 400 years when they couldn't accurately measure it. They're also not claiming it's changed until the industrial revolution started which is 150 years out of several billion. it's science.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • docserveralson

      Try actually reading the article, or just learn to actually read English. Sea ice and land ice are different items and treated as such in that sentence. Since 1972 scientists have been regularly taking deep ice plugs and analyzing them. They show patterns that go back thousands of years. Really, people shouldn't criticize things they know so little about.

      September 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      I guess the only positive thing to here is, when sea ice melts, the sea levels will lower or remain neutral to the offset of land ice. When the ice on Greenland, and Antarctica melt, then we'll be in trouble =/.

      September 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dino Droppings

      Do you know that waves roll over beaches ?

      September 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. f

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling !!!!! The Polar caps are melting, the polar caps are melting !!!!! Yet somehow, I am still alive and going to work today..again. How does this affect me? When I see a polar bear in my back yard, I'll worry. Global Warming is the biggest crock of BS ever put forth by "science". The earth gets warm, the earth gets cold... It happens. It's just acoincidence that it is happening again in the time that idiots like Al Gore and the treehuggers and LAME-stream media are alive. Remember the last Ice Age? It was nice and warm, then it got cold....Oh yeah... and then the earth warmed up.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Krapslax

      Gosh, I'm so relieved we have a real scientist in our midst to cut through the fog of fake science! They say the Antarctic ozone hole came – and is recovering – both largely as a result of man's activities (Nature, 16 May 2011). But through it all you didn't die and I reckon kept going to work. By george, they're lying about that too!!!

      September 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • BornWithABrain

      Pure Tea Party idiocy. Is it fun being totally mindless??

      September 12, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Thanks, krapslax! I missed that one on the ozone recovery over the Antarctic! Excellent news!

      September 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • BTG360

      Ask farmers, ranchers, commercial fishermen, loggers, and all other folks who are dependent on weather/climate for their livelihood whether they're going to start worrying only when they see a polar bear in their back yard. Or do you not give a s–t? You, sir, are an idiot. The Arctic ice is melting. Glaciers are melting. Sea levels are rising. Less ice to reflect sun light means the seawater absorbs more UV light, which kills the micro-organisms that are key to the food chain all the way up the line. Warmer surface water temperatures mean more devastating storms– from blizzards to hurricanes. The world's oceans are becoming more acidic, and reefs are dying, and fisheries are impacted. Get a clue.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thersa

      How sad it is to see someone so thoroughly duped by right-wing media. Don't you know rich people are laughing at you and your stupid friends?

      September 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • OU812IC

      Yep another brianwashed moron, who has no facts or aknowledges the facts
      As long as he gets up to go to work today
      You are the exact type of people who are making this problem worse or are you getting up today to go to work with the oil companies is that why you make those statements, keeping the lies going

      September 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      "LAME-stream media" – dead giveaway for another mindless Faux News watching drone.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. charlie from the North

    Oh never mind.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Alex

    It seems I'll be taking a boat to work before I retire.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Hank Hill

    "The receding ice is also opening up a war for oil resources."

    Ice caps melting from green house gases caused by the use of fossil fuels which leads to finding more fossil fuels which we will then use to destroy more of our planet. Good show!

    September 12, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Yul Strok'eet Awl-Wasch

    Pay no attention to that Whack-O Al Gore. Just because everything he predicted (actually the scientists working his project predicted it) has come true.

    Lush Limpbag knows all the answers.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. tank rothchild

    Warm summers melt ice. Cold winters freezes ice. Speaking of winters, how is the ice levels in the winter months? Conveniently left out of this fear mongering article.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • BornWithABrain

      High school dropouts can't fathom science. Global warming (climate change) results in extreme Winters and Summers – just like we've been seeing. But even facts don't matter to mindless Fox zombies.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • OU812IC

      Your an idiot
      They did not leave that out. The ice levels are the lowest ever period. It does not matter what season. The large glaciers are receding faster and faster in every season. Less and less cold weather makes less and less ice every winter hence the lowest ice ever

      September 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Iowan

      Hey OU812IC -
      If you are going to call someone an idiot, it might be good to learn the difference between your and you're.

      I let these go, except when there is name calling involved.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leslie Graham

      The winter extent was also the lowest on record. Hardly surprising considering the average Arctic temperatures have been up to 12C above normal this year.

      It must take extraordinary commitment on your part to remain so utterly ignorant of such basic facts – facts that are freely available at the click of a mouse in about five seconds flat.
      This is part of the reason the tin-foil hat denialist cult devotees are sounding more hysterical by the day as every one of their absurd memes melts in the heat of reaity.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    This is normal, its not humans, its not industry its called Mother Nature. Natural way of cooling different parts of the world during Solar Flare Ups. Man has been through it since the beginning of time. There isn't much else we can do about our Sun. The problem is that we are over populated, so yes flooding will happen, earthquakes will happen. What goes up always comes down. Normal Natural Response. Yes its good to be aware of it, but nothing to lose sleep over.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wzrd1

      Erm, during "solar flare-ups", there are a lot of sunspots and the Earth gets WARMER. It's when there are LESS OR NO sunspots that the Earth cools a lot.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scientist

      The sun is not responsible for recent warming. If it were, the stratosphere would be warming, not just the troposphere. If the warming is mainly caused by increased greenhouse glasses, the troposphere will warm and the stratosphere will cool, which is what's happening. There are mountains of evidence in favor of anthropogenic global climate change. There is no model which can explain the warming of the last century without increasing GHG concentrations.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Yes the earth was able to recover temperatures normally and naturally based on normal and natural carbon emisions. But when we burn more carbon based fuel than the earth can handle, not to mention massive deforestation, we set the earth's natural cycle out of balance.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus in MN

      This is NOT normal. Yes, there are long-term cycles in the climate; apparently you are unaware that professional climate scientists already know about these cycles and have factored them into their models. The global warming occurring now is superimposed on the existing natural cycles and is happening at an unprecedented rate.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leslie Graham

      And there we have it – yet more stunning ignorance of even the most basic facts.
      There has been NO upward trend in sunspot activity since the early 70,s. If anything, theire has been a reduction which would have normaly led to a slight fall in global average temperatures. Meanwhile the average global temperature has risen at a rate not seen in tens of thousands of years.
      How can you have lived long enough to be able to string a few words together and yet somehow not know that sun spot activity has been steady or decreased? I mean seriously. Have you NEVER heard this simple fact in all your life?
      How is it possible to remain so ignorant?

      September 13, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Leslie Graham

      And there we have it – yet more stunning ignorance of even the most basic facts.
      There has been NO upward trend in sunspot activity since the early 70,s. If anything, theire has been a reduction which would have normaly led to a slight fall in global average temperatures. Meanwhile the average global temperature has risen at a rate not seen in tens of thousands of years.
      How can you possibly not know that?

      September 13, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  13. EC

    ice is supposed to melt, the polar ice was formed during the last ice age, if those conditions persisted in order for the ice not to melt then humans would never have been able to populate the earth. now it's melting, what goes up must come down. there have been millions of species come and go, why are we any different?

    September 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. te

    Historic ice levels? They have been watching this area for for only forty years and now the levels are historic? Even scientists state that many times that this area had little or no ice levels. The biggest problem I have with any type of temperature study is that they started in the late 1800's for the most part but that same time period was part of the mini ice age. What is truly 'normal'?

    September 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wzrd1

      Yeah, Canada never looked at the northern ice at all, right? The Nordic nations never looked at the ice, right?
      We have no art showing mountain glaciers going back 1000 years, right?
      No records were kept at all, right?
      I swear, this nation becomes stupider, not by the generation, but by the YEAR!

      September 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • te

      I guess ALL of the scientists that have found evidence of higher temps in the Artic going back thousands and tens of thousands of years are ALL wrong? I was just quoting the article and other studies. You might do the same before calling others stupid.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • EC

      come on man, you dont have to have direct observation to know what climates were like millions of years ago. its called core samples, and geological surveys

      September 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ProScience

    The oil companies are making huge money from the effects of climate change. They contribute to the cause of climate change and they reap the benefits. Future generations will wonder why we were so gullible to let this happen.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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