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. Squid

    Global Warming exists only in the minds of those who can benefit from the environment

    September 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jooj

      You mean all living creatures and plant life?

      September 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • effelbee

      You really do know anything about this subject, do you? Climatologists worldwide, the UN etc all have confirmed not just that it is happening (yes, sorry, but as Al Gore described) and that it is caused by mankind's carbon footprint. Your grandchildren will regret you.

      September 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • John John

      To understand global warming, you would have to look at data posted AFTER the 2001-2003 fake Republican data websites, so unless you change your TV channel to one that knows what science is, and away from fox noise, it is hard to believe in global warming. Everyone, including the GOP now know that global warming is real. Except you. Whats your problem? Just trying to stir up trouble?

      September 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cody

      I cannot figure out if you are joking, or if you are an idiot. I find it hard to believe that anyone can argue with science, but then again, according to many conservative Christians, the earth is less than 1 million years old, and evolution does not exist

      September 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • JBHedgehog

      Oh...so you mean that nothing exists unless you believe it exists. Well, I'm still going for Unicorns and a mountain shaped like a DQ Peanut Buster Parfait. I just KNOW I'll be successful.

      Let's all drink to belief over FACTS!!! WOO HOO!!!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lauradet

    Unbelievable, CNN finally post an article about the Arctic...IT'S ABOUT TIME! Now, do the follow up story to let everyone know that several countries rushed in to the Arctic to begin drilling for oil. An oil spill has already happened that has done major damage to the ecology. Greenpeace is leading the way to legally put a boundary around both poles so oil drilling will never happen.

    It is so sad that instead of helping the natural balance of the Arctic, man only sees profit and greed for their benefit only.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. 100x100American

    For all you idiots: if you if you are rich this is not for you. They way conservative wants to fix everything if to give tax break to the rich and billionaires. So, lets give them another tax break that way climate change stops.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • John John

      Actually the USA is on the right track and has reduced CO2 emissions and will reduce them more in the future. That is assuming that the GOP doesn't get its claws into the system and reverse it back. What is with them anyway? I mean, they couldn't be THAT messed up that they would want to destroy the earth, right?
      What we need to do is get the CO2 dropping everywhere around the world.... not sure how to do that.

      September 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • JBHedgehog

      @ John John – that may be true, but the pace of change internally vs. the pace of change externally (the ice caps) is still incredibly unbalanced. We need to be quicker.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ed in miami

    this is just an only inAmerica kind of conversation, which shows the level od decay of this country's education...no civilized country argues these things...that our "leaders" show contempt for worldwide accepted science shoiws why we are falling behind in so many fields, while others are eons ahead of us...in science, forget it, we were in the past the leaders....now it is just pathetic

    September 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. asmitt

    Unless the entire world is involved in reducing greenhouse gases (Russia, China, India, Brazil,etc) it ain't gonna change anything if the US and Europe are the only ones concerned about doing anything. It only amounts to more job losses.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • greg

      Simply answer to that...environmental trade tariffs.

      September 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • lauradet

      If America leads the way, maybe the other countries will follow. America is one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions.

      September 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Freedomics

      Lead by example

      September 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. greg

    The climatologists are in league with NASA (and anyone else with a satellite) in a vast liberal conspiracy to ruin the world economies for reasons yet unknown (but let's just say they don't like super-rich people). Oddly though, the super-rich, who control virtually everything, have for some reason failed to buyoff only a few of the climatologists. Those insidious liberals must have somehow blackmailed thousands of scientists into fabricating the evidence or bribed them with more money than what the Multinationals could match.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • effelbee

      Greg, try to get a grip on some facts about climate change.

      September 12, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • 100x100American

      Liberals are just trying to stop all the stupidities conservatives wants to do.

      September 12, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • John John

      LOL you are being sarcastic right? OMG you are serious? ROFL

      September 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cody

      Wow, Greg. Your extreme ignorance and paranoid delusions are actually humorous. Suuuure, liberals want the world to collapse economically...and climate change is actually the modern equivalent of the moon landing conspiracy. I picture you as an ostrich with its head in the sand

      September 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • qhapaqinka

      Wow, sarcasm was lost on just about all of you. ^

      September 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bil

    i don't care what anyone believes as far as warming is concerned; however, the animals DO care: their food chain is disappearing and then we have the nerve to kill them because they venture too close to man looking for food. the animals will hopefully get the last laugh on man

    September 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChicagoRob

      uhm..Humans are animals..so by your logic we have every right to infringe upon other animals to look for resources. I have never really understood the concept of people saying humans should bow out of the way for other animals, just accept your postion as being a part of the most invasive species of animal to ever grace this planet. Now go eat something fluffy that can't outrun you!!

      September 12, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Nah

    michael: "All the scientific proof of ongoing climate change is available for those who have a brain and are willing to try to understand it. Unfortunately, 90% of the world population ... are not capable of logical thinking and objectivity required to understand scientific process."

    Ah, right. And you've looked at these facts and figures yourself? Or you're merely parroting what others have told you?

    No one doubts the proof of climate change, the question is simply whether it's man made. And when you look at the "figures" it seems man's contribution of CO2 to the atmosphere is negligible.

    The earth's atmosphere is composed of about .03% CO2, 3 percent of which comes from humans. That's equivalent to a person dropping 1 liter of water into a 400,000,000,000,000,000 (400 quadrillion) liter lake.

    Is that the tipping point for the environment? It may very well be. But I get the feeling you really don't know the answer, but you believe you've found one anyway.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      dr: "Seriously, why do people stubbornly and arrogantly assume that they know more than a consortium of experts who have spent their entire careers studying a particular issue?"

      Because giving up your intelligence and refusing to ask questions because the "experts" have made a declaration of what is true is absurd. Give deference to scientists, but ask questions when things make no sense.

      Not to mention, global warming has become such a political, hot button issue, why should anyone believe what any person says on either side of it?

      September 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      dr: "why do people stubbornly and arrogantly assume that they know more than a consortium of experts who have spent their entire careers studying a particular issue?"

      Because giving up your intelligence and refusing to ask questions because the "experts" have made a declaration of what is true is absurd. Give deference to scientists, but ask questions when things make no sense.

      Not to mention, global warming has become such a political, hot button issue, why should anyone believe what any person says on either side of it?

      September 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoeyJoeJoe

      Your analogy is flawed. The key factor your leaving out here is sensitivty to change. If a system is in equilibrium at a given point, even minor changes can cause severe consequences. Think of a teetor-totter, it is sitting well balanced with children of equal weight on each side. Add a 2 lb. weight to one side and the one kid goes gliding to the ground while the other rises to sky. The same is true of carcinogen ratios in the human blood stream. Small amounts of carcinogens when compared to the whole can create devastating impacts for the system.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      Currently we are pumping around 25 billion tons of CO2 in to the atmosphere yearly. We have raised the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by 35% since the start of the industrial age. At the same time we've been deforesting the planet. So more CO2 and fewer trees to absorb excess CO2. We know that CO2 effectively traps heat. So, you have a rapid increase in CO2 levels and a reduction in potential carbon sinks. What, exactly, do you think is going to happen?

      Also, your comparison is stupid – it's like those old "these toxic wastes are just one eyedropper full in a tanker car of water! How could that be bad?" Except it does have consequences. You might not want to imagine that they could – it's such a small tiny insignificant change right? How could that have any effect? But would you drink a glass of water that came from that tanker car?

      Lastly, let's imagine that you are right. There has been a rise in temperature (that's been accepted now even by your side of the debate). So what is causing it? There has been no increased in solar activity over a long enough period of time to explain it. We are in the wrong phase for it to be orbital progression. So what is causing the rise? You say you are smart guy – so what is causing it?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • John John

      You need to stop reading 2001 websites that have erroneous data. The CO2 buildup is man-made. Virtually everyone who understands the science agrees, but those pesky out-dated websites are certainly more accurate than the entire scientific community right?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      joey: "Your analogy is flawed. The key factor your leaving out here is sensitivty to change"

      Please read the whole comment before responding.

      I asked explicitly whether or not 3% of .03% wast the tipping point, conceded that it "very well might be" and asked the original poster to substantiate his assertions.

      CHRIS: "So what is causing it? There has been no increased in solar activity over a long enough period of time to explain it. We are in the wrong phase for it to be orbital progression. So what is causing the rise? You say you are smart guy – so what is causing it?"

      Nah, I never said I was anything.

      Much less, your argument is a post hoc fallacy. The world's climate has changed dramatically back and forth since the its first beginnings. Are you going to blame man for that, too?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Frosty

    I could knit a magic scarff for everyone and reverse the effects of global warming.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Alaskan

    I live in Alaska, by all means bring on global warming/climate change....Please.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • John John

      Ever been in a greenhouse? The problem is that we don't know how far it will go! Can you take 103 degrees Fahrenheit for a WINTER LOW?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. steven harnack

    History abounds with examples of civilizations that created their own extinction by over use or their resources. It seems that they all died in vain because now we seem to be in a rush to do the same thing on a global scale. Education is the answer but you can't teach a stubborn person who is proud of his/her ignorance.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ChicagoRob

    although i believe there is global warming currently going on..it is quite a leap to factor in man-made pollutants as the cause. there is no current science to back up those claims (hasn't been nearly enough years to make a decent study)

    Now don't get me wrong I think the world needs to really reign in all it's pollutants but not because of global warming..my fear is polluting fresh water which is getting extremely thin in alot of over populated countries.

    really we will run out of fossil fuels, drinking water and tillable land for food before we can heat the planet up enough to cause serious damage.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      Well, what's causing it then? If not CO2, methane, and other industrial effluvia what is doing it? I should point out that the idea that it's due to increased solar activity does fly – there has been a minor increase but only enough to explain around 2 to 3% of the rise. Also, the orbital progression idea doesn't work. We're in the wrong phase of the cycle for that to be an issue. We have a *lot* of science saying it is CO2 et al. We also have a lot of science saying that its *not* a bunch of other things.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. BigT

    I just love how Wzrd1 and OU812 and BornwithoutABrain all look down their long noses of intellectual prowess at the rest of us "idiots", "morons" etc, because they bought into the preaching's of their leftist eco-communist "professors" at their $60K/year college of Anti-American indoctrination. On the other hand I don't think Wzrd was educated at all since he/she cannot complete a sentence correctly "I swear, this nation becomes stupider, not by the generation, but by the YEAR!" key word "stupider" which doesn't exist. Nonetheless, if all you eco imbeciles' will recall, there were once massive glaciers covering all of Canada including what is now the Great Lakes. These glaciers weren't several feet high but rather serveral hundred feet high. Guess what? They all melted!!!! Oh crap!!! I'm glad I wasn't around then. I might have died from lack of plankton in the ocean since it naturally became more acidic with all that fresh water dumped in. And the Hurricanes must have been all CAT-5's for centuries. My point is yes perhaps the earth is warming. Perhaps not. But it's been cycling since the beginning of time. Let's presume you're right and all of us evil energy hogging American's are the cause (China is probably the worst offender by the way). What do you propose? No more electricity or automobiles, trucks, etc? Without electricity and transportation or the "evil oil industry" you, along with the rest of us would starve. I know I'm talking to a wall here but just think for a micro second about a world with no energy to harvest food or move products (food) from one place to another. Worldwide famine. All in the name of 1 degree temperature variation over the course of 10,000 years. Ask yourself – is that logical? I really don't think so.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • effelbee

      For starters, mr know nothing, the glaciers did not "all melt," but stayed with us for centuries-until now! Now they are in fact all melting and not because of any conspiracy, but because idiots like you will never do anything about it.

      September 12, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • John John

      Big T... move out of your mom's basement and turn your radio off Rush.
      It is truly amazing that people still think science is somehow a political ploy.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DaveL

    moron.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • John John

      There are a lot of morons on here... please be specific.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brain..On!

    Fact: we have climate data for past 400,000 yrs. from Earths history!! Fact: Earths temp. rises or falls, in exactly same ratio as Co2 . ALWAYS!!! Like gravity it cant be bullied by THUGS , and suddenly nature isnt reality. Guess what holds us down could be the Moon ,if you are brazen enough to claim water vapor blocks solar heat etc., or we dont know how warm/cold Earth has been past 100 or so yrs. ago

    September 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
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