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. RUFFNUTT ( enviormental activist & smeller of fine wines )

    the earth is going bald.. we need to form a new group.. ice club for earth.. earth patteren baldness can be fixed..

    September 12, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Motley

      Historic low means lowest in last 40 years???

      "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,..."

      the Earth has only had ice on the polar caps 10% of its history,.... let's not overuse or in this case compltely misuse the term "Historic" in order to fear monger,.... the main tactic used by the media. We aren't even as warm as the Earth's average temperatue throughout history as we are still in the midst of a 3 million year long ice age,....

      September 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leslie Graham

      No – historic low does not mean "in the last 40 years".
      This is likely the lowest the ice has been for at least 5,000 years, probably 9,000 years and possibly 120,000 years.
      More stunning ignorance from the tin-foil hat denial cult.

      September 13, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • L. Ron Hubbard


      October 3, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bimbo the Birthday Clown

    Yes, but it's still pretty damn chilly in Edmonton today.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • BornWithABrain

      Morons in Canada too?

      September 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. RUFFNUTT ( enviormental activist & smeller of fine wines )

    i really don't feel to bad cause i hate winter... kcmo thows tons of salt dawn any time there is one drop of snow..
    82 camaros weak spot is salt in the quarter panels..

    September 12, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  4. andy

    The second coldest since 1895? But how can that be we didn't use cars so much back then, that has to be wrong.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Mightaswellbe

      Yes, but there were probably a lot more coal burning going on.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      We didn't use cars until the early 1900's...but remember the Industrial Revolution. No pollution controls...all those factories in the late 1800's belching out all that smoke and carbon....

      September 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • OU812IC

      2nd since since 1895, Not the coldest

      September 12, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • OU812IC

      Meant to say
      2nd hottest summer since 1895
      Not coldest

      September 12, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rob

    Apparently CNN doesn't know the difference between the Arctic and Antarctic

    September 12, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. ken

    The Antarctic Ice is growing at the rate of 1.5% per year. Our kids are being destroyed in the world market by getting an inferior education. US Adults are fed junk science by the mainstream news media. Something is wrong in the US that allows MORONS to dominate a science or health topic! It may be time to allow tort law to hit news reporters and politicians who promote junk science. It could be fun to shut down many newspapers, radio outlets, cable news networks, and prime time networks for broadcasting blatant lies!

    September 12, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      Your full of crap. The Antarctic ice sheet isn't growing. .
      It's the uninformed statements like yours that are the real problem with the US today.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dan

    There's nothing to see here. Everything's fine. Back to your TV.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  8. chattybaby

    If we're talking about melting Arctic ice, why would there be a picture of Antarctica?

    September 12, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. Lou Wicker

    Umm...the graphic below the picture is Anarctica, NOT the arctic. Pls correct.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. Laura

    Is this really a map of Antarctica??

    September 12, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  11. Laura

    That's pretty lame. How do you expect those anti-global warming people to not talk up some more crap..

    September 12, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. tstorm

    It can't be from global-warming. Rick Perry said there is no such thing! (As his state of Texas burns to the ground in the worst drought in US history...)

    September 12, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • noteabags

      Then it must be true. We are so screwed if he gets elected.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Ron Burgundy

      The worst drought in the last 100-150 years out of billions of years on earth. It's science.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Li55iE

    some news...

    September 12, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jon

    Andy, it says second hottest. We were still burning fossil fuels back in those days, even if it wasn't for moving cars and trucks around.
    CNN, I'd like to point out that your map is one of Antartica. (See? It says so in the lower left corner.) You don't have to worry about its becoming open ocean in the summer. It's a continent.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. banasy©

    Second HOTTEST since 1895, andy.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
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