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. Bill/Indiana

    What are you going to believe, an explanation backed by evidence, statistics, and a bunch of boring old scientists; or a position backed by right-wing ideology and colorful folks who get really angry and loud while wearing tri-corner hats? Who needs 'truth' when you can have 'truthiness.'

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

      bill: "What are you going to believe, an explanation backed by evidence, statistics, and a bunch of boring old scientists; or a position backed by right-wing ideology and colorful folks who get really angry and loud while wearing tri-corner hats? Who needs 'truth' when you can have 'truthiness.'"

      Brilliantly fallacious argument. Premised entirely on ad hominems, straw men and misrepresentations, eh?

      Much less, why are you advocating that people abdicate their intelligence and believe instead whatever they're told?

      "What are you going to believe, an explanation backed by evidence, statistics, and a bunch of boring old scientists"

      You may as well have said the same thing for geocentrism and scholasticism. Merely because something is the prevailing view doesn't make it true or accurate. And when the facts are in dispute (by actual scientists) picking a side based on your political leanings makes you a buffoon.

      Please try again, bill. But this time try to be intelligent.

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

      @Nah: You said, "And when the facts are in dispute (by actual scientists)"

      As much as you'd like them to be, they're not.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      The facts aren't really in dispute at all. The overwhelming sentiment in the global scientific community is that we are experiencing global warming, and that it is being stimulated by human activity. There is no significant dissent on this, no peer reviewed research to the contrary.

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

      sean: "As much as you'd like them to be, they're not."

      Brilliant rebuttal.

      Merely say a person is wrong without proving how or why it's so.

      Please don't tell me this passes for intelligence in your mind.

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

      chuck: "The overwhelming sentiment in the global scientific community is that we are experiencing global warming, and that it is being stimulated by human activity."

      You missed the point. The issue isn't whether the world's climate changes, it's whether global warming is man made or whether humans have any significant impact on it.

      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 have come to a conclusion anyway.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      scott: "The old 3% canard. It's simply not true. It may be 3% of the TOTAL FLUX OF CARBON in the global carbon cycle, but that's irrelevant- it's the BALANCE that matters."

      You're right. Which is why I asked, quite explicitly, whether or not 3% of .03% was the "tipping point" for the environment.

      And rather than show that it is the tipping point, you simply say it's so.

      The lack of intellectual honesty on CNN is astounding, really.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      scott: "Look up the Dunning-Kruger effect:
      the people with the least knowledge tend to be the most confident in their knowledge."

      Great ad hominem. Rather than answer the question, denigrate your opponent's intelligence instead.

      You're smart 🙂

      September 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • rwmsrobertw

      10 lines of evidence that humans are causing global warming / climate change by burning carbon
      (taken from http://skepticalscience.com/its-not-us.htm )

      1. Humans are currently emitting around 30 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

      2. Oxygen levels are falling as if carbon is being burned to create carbon dioxide.

      3. Fossil carbon is building up in the atmosphere. (We know this because the two types of carbon have different chemical properties.)

      4. Corals show that fossil carbon has recently risen sharply.

      5. Satellites measure less heat escaping to space at the precise wavelengths which CO2 absorbs.

      6. Surface measurements find this heat is returning to Earth to warm the surface.

      7. An increased greenhouse effect would make nights warm faster than days, and this is what has been observed.

      8. If the warming is due to solar activity, then the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) should warm along with the rest of the atmosphere. But if the warming is due to the greenhouse effect, the stratosphere should cool because of the heat being trapped in the lower atmosphere (the troposphere). Satellite measurements show that the stratosphere is cooling.

      9. This combination of a warming troposphere and cooling stratosphere should cause the tropopause, which separates them, to rise. This has also been observed.

      10.It was predicted that the ionosphere would shrink, and it is indeed shrinking.

      Please visit http://skepticalscience.com/argument.php to see what is wrong with the arguments of those who think climate change (which includes global warming) is not real.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      rwm: "Please visit http://skepticalscience.com/argument.php to see what is wrong with the arguments of those who think climate change (which includes global warming) is not real."

      And once again the issue is whether it's man made, not whether or not it's happening.

      I know that distinction makes it difficult for you to be partisan and high and mighty, but please try to keep it in mind. You'll look less foolish that way.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Henry1960

      Their "Science" has already been debunked several times, often through their OWN reports/peer reviews, etc. This is getting old, very old.

      Yes, we are polluting our world, but we are killing ourselves and other inhabitants through heavy chemicals, not warming. The warming is cyclical and has happened many, many times throughout our history. Fight against polution and the effects it has on our health and you made get support.

      Sick and tired of these idiots (here too) attacking "right-wingers". Provide irrefutable proof, stop doctoring your data and folks will take you seriously

      September 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • rwmsrobertw

      And once again, scientists have presented evidence that the increase in carbon dioxide is caused by human activity, evidence that I just presented to you. You could follow the links I provided all the way to the original scientific reasearch that has convinced 97% of the scientists that study global warming that it is human caused, or you can continue to pretend it is not real with nothing to back your claims.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      rmw: "And once again, scientists have presented evidence that the increase in carbon dioxide is caused by human activity, evidence that I just presented to you."

      The evidence you presented consisted (on the main page of the website) of arguments from authority, post hoc fallacies, skewed statistics (e.g., 2009-2010 were the "hottest on record" therefore the world is "not" cooling, while ignoring overall trends), and so on.

      In order to make a coherent argument you're going to have to show: 1) the amount of CO2 and greenhouse gases humans are emitting into the atmosphere, and 2) whether that amount is significant.

      You can't rely on fallacious arguments from authority.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kire

      @ Nah –> oh, snap! LOL

      September 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • rwmsrobertw

      Nah: The evidence you presented consisted (on the main page of the website) of arguments from authority, post hoc fallacies, skewed statistics (e.g., 2009-2010 were the "hottest on record" therefore the world is "not" cooling, while ignoring overall trends), and so on.

      The article is thouroughly referenced to the original peer reviewed scientific research. Science is not an argument from authority, it is the best method we have for learning how the world operates. An argument from authoority is based on accepting a belief based on nothing more than the credibility of a single individual. The fact that humans are responsible for the currently observed global watming is based upon peer reviewed scientific research which can be refuted by other scientists doing research that shows the results of the previous studies to be true. This is not being done and it explains why 97% of climatologists (the consensus of thousands, not the view of a single individual) accept that global warming is real and human caused.

      As for the evidence that humans are responsible for the increase in carbon dioxide, it's pretty simple. Humans are currently emitting about 30 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year (as I have already stated and backed up with references through the link that I provided), which is more than enough to explain the rise that we are seeing in carbon dioxide every year, so it is obvious that the amount is significant.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • rep

      When climate skeptics' arguments actually convince the experts who publish in the peer-reviewed journals–as opposed to spouting off at random internet at random, then I'll listen. So far, they have not; in fact those that have tried are almost completely gone now....or perhaps found an audience with the less informed folks on the internet.

      Virtually all the controversy exists *outside* the domain of climate the experts. Their hypotheses have been tested and experiments repeated independently by others all over the world for years now. It's a done deal. So if skeptics have new data, new, evidence, ideas, etc. I would encourage them stop railing about conspiracy theories and politics and just write it up and present it to them.

      It works just like any other scientific field. If your evidence, data, etc. is irrefutable, and you can explain why your theories are more sound than the prevailing one, the scientific community will listen and begin to come around.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      You may as well have said the same thing for geocentrism and scholasticism. Merely because something is the prevailing view doesn't make it true or accurate. And when the facts are in dispute (by actual scientists) picking a side based on your political leanings makes you a buffoon.

      Funny how this person just did the same thing he accused you of.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill/Indiana

      @Nah
      Not a supporter of science, are you? That's alright. Scientists are not a big supporter of you, either.
      But you should not try to make people think ideology is a type of science, or somehow equivalent. It's just what people do when reality does not fit their opinions.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

    Koyaanisqatsi

    Life out of balance.

    A film everybody on this planet should see.

    Your planet is talking to you, will you listen ?

    September 12, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Stvnkrs10

    What I found most amazing is that there have been 10 pages of sound off's and not once has anyone yet blamed Obama.

    September 12, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Andy

    I believe that the global weather was changing and that the increased amounts of greenhouse gases are accelerating a natural phenomenon. To say that humans are causing it 100% is not only not true but it causes peoles back to go up and not listen. If we look at the argument from the point of view that we are accelerating it and we are not the sole cause of it we can have a meaningful discussion about what we can do to decelerate it. We are contributing to global warming but we didnt start it.

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

      The problem is that people want to keep their heads in the sand on the matter because regulation aimed at addressing the issue costs jobs and reduces profits. The right won't just come out and say that they think jobs and money are more important than the environment, so they create the "jury is still out" and "scientific/government conspiracy" argument as a reconciliation. The left won't just come out and say that they know that regulations will cost in jobs and profits, but that the alternative is worse.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • rwmsrobertw

      Andy,

      Here is some of the evidence that humans are responsible for the observed 35% increase in carbon dioxide over the last 130 years. What evidence do you have that something else is responsible for the observed increase?

      10 lines of evidence that humans are causing global warming / climate change by burning carbon
      (taken from http://skepticalscience.com/its-not-us.htm )

      1. Humans are currently emitting around 30 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

      2. Oxygen levels are falling as if carbon is being burned to create carbon dioxide.

      3. Fossil carbon is building up in the atmosphere. (We know this because the two types of carbon have different chemical properties.)

      4. Corals show that fossil carbon has recently risen sharply.

      5. Satellites measure less heat escaping to space at the precise wavelengths which CO2 absorbs.

      6. Surface measurements find this heat is returning to Earth to warm the surface.

      7. An increased greenhouse effect would make nights warm faster than days, and this is what has been observed.

      8. If the warming is due to solar activity, then the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) should warm along with the rest of the atmosphere. But if the warming is due to the greenhouse effect, the stratosphere should cool because of the heat being trapped in the lower atmosphere (the troposphere). Satellite measurements show that the stratosphere is cooling.

      9. This combination of a warming troposphere and cooling stratosphere should cause the tropopause, which separates them, to rise. This has also been observed.

      10.It was predicted that the ionosphere would shrink, and it is indeed shrinking.

      Please visit http://skepticalscience.com/argument.php to see what is wrong with the arguments of those who think climate change (which includes global warming) is not real.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      chuck: "The right won't just come out and say that they think jobs and money are more important than the environment"

      That's cute. Rather than responding to the merits of your opposition's argument, disparage their intelligence and question their motives instead.

      What most Republicans are against are unnecessary, duplicative or harmful regulations that do nothing to increase environmental safety, but burden businesses all the same.

      If you can't keep that fact straight in your mind, perhaps you shouldn't hold any political opinions at all.

      Put the partisanship aside just this once.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • TJ

      Robertw – you are the victim of the left wingnuts that want your money. I can also make up 10 points that prove that global warming isn't occuring because of man. Climate change is normal. Next thing you will be telling everyone that earth is becoming like Venus. LoL, give us the formulas for your 10 contentions. Or you can just go to http://www.junkscience.com and learn about our atmosphere for yourself without some gov't paid scientist drilling it into your brain.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • rwmsrobertw

      TJ,

      You know nothing about me – I am not a victim of the 97% of climatologists that are convinced that global warming is human caused. Their evidence is real, it has been reviewed, and it has been published. I've presented the claims of climatologists here. You can follow that first link back to references to the original scientific articles that present their evidence. Will you present links to scientific research showing that humans are not responsible for global warming?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. AndrewNY1988

    If you believe or don't believe in climate change is not important. What is important is that Earth is the only place that we know of that can support human (or any) type of life. We should all be stewards of the Earth to preserve our species for generations to come.

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

      Obviously, you haven't spent any time with the current generation!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike1965

      Now, that makes sense.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kire

      Right on. I don't get why people can't see that. If humans are not responsible for global warming, not even for accelerating it should it be a natural phenomenon, why not just do the "right thing" and adopt/develop technologies that leave the smallest footprint possible?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Patriot

    More junk science to keep crack pots like Al Gore making money from fools who beleive this crap, just another scam like Y2K.

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

      Y2K was probably overstated, but it could be argued that the couple hundred billion dollars spent to prepare for it helped prevent significant problems.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. AlohaBetty

    Al Gore would love us to believe this was was a man-made problem so the stocks in his goofy green companies would go up. The fact is that the earth has warmed, and cooled, back and forth since the earth was formed, naturally.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      There's no record of the planet warming like this since the last ice age, is there?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JayDeeTee

    Hey Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, and all other shallow, vapid, ignorant, and hate-mongering right-wing Republican fools! Take a look at aerial maps of Greenland in 1960 and today. Then, go soak you head in a bucket of ICE!!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tony

    Is 39 years worth of data really enough to draw conclusions about the historic nature of anything?

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

      Is it insignificant enough to ignore?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • gwright

      Thanks Tony for being the first to mention this. My first thought reading this article was, "Wow, since 1972? 1972? That's a joke right? Earth is how many billion years old and we're jumping to conclusions based on 1972?"

      Seems logical. I mean, if I were to make some kind of argument and base it on one one-hundred millionth of the population size, I'd be laughed out of town. Try that with anything the lefties don't agree with, and see how they like their own logic.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

    Fred Flinstone

    Has any of these scientists one ever actually noticed that we are sitting atop a huge ball of super heated molten material and orbit a burning star. Not that I would ever put these two together but just maybe these might have a little thawing effect on the ice ?

    This guy still stops his car with his feet.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    You have to take this for what it's worth: at best a comedic attempt at showcasing the media's myopic view of science and history and at worst just a showcasing of ignorance.
    The headline mentions the "historic" nature of the ice level...and the article mentions the timeline to this "historic" low: 1972!
    In the course of history the span represented from 1972 to 2011 hardly represents a discernible individual graph point, let alone a reflection of historic or scientific change.
    To attempt to say that the time period studied reflects any real evidence about the history or science of Earth's climate is to merely substantiate the ignorance of the writer, and arguing about the silly article one way or the other in terms of global warming is simply amusing (though disappointing). Responding to such an article is simply a waste of time–and of that I too am guilty!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      And yet, the evidence from the last 40 years is consistent with the idea that we are experiencing global warming.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. 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 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobcat2u

    Loss of arctic ice at historical levels.
    Just exactly how do they know this ? Have these people been here throughout history ? Are they going by the records that have been kept throughout history on the nature of actic ice ? What exact evidence do they have to show how the ice has been throughout history ?

    September 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mo9

    I guess the Antarctic ice getting thicker isn't relevant?

    September 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      About 40% of Antarctica is getting warmer. Please don't ask us to base government policies on Michael Crichton books. He writes fiction.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Otisburg

    I hope I live long enough to see the sea levels rise 40-50 feet and eradicate all the major cities on both coasts, forcing their heavy liberal populations to relocate to conservative small town America.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
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