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. Beverly

    i DID POST A COMMENT........

    September 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Fred Goepfert

    The man-made-global-warning-one-world-dictatorship-wanna-bee-Comrades never give up.
    They conveniently ignore the fact of record cold winters that rebuild the ice packs.
    They conveniently ignore the fact of the heating effects of the massive amounts of methane produced naturally.
    They conveniently ignore the fact of the increase in magma activity heating the Pacific Ocean.
    They conveniently ignore the fact of the magma hot spot under Greenland.
    They conveniently ignore the fact that this is an extreme weather cycle similar to others that have occurred in Earth's history.
    The Comrades never give up.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • ConSlayer

      Teabag blind parrot sheeple will need to be dealt with soon.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Questioner

      Seriously..."comrades?" Are we equating "stating the obvious" with being a communist now? FACT: there is nothing...NOTHING...that refutes theories of man-made global warming. NO ONE DISAGREES, unless mandated to do so by a party of INTELLECTUAL DEGENERATES who, under the guise of Christian righteousness no less, demand that their followers adhere to a set of beliefs that defy all reason, goodness and personal accountability in the world.

      I guess I'd rather be a comrade than a fool.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thersa

      I am really sick of mass stupidity like yours turning our country into a laughing stock. What on Earth has happened to you people to make you so unbelievable dense???

      September 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gbird

      And you ignore all scientific fact. The fact that the world is getting warmer isn't in debate. The only thing being debated, by a very small number of scientists, is if it's man made. The vast majority of scientists in the world agree that it is man made. The idea that "record cold winters that rebuild the ice packs" is just laughable. To be specific, I'm not saying that there haven't been record cold winters, I'm saying that they don't rebuild the ice packs. What are at record lows are the ice packs and they have been steadily declining since 1966 or so. I'm not talking about climate prediction models here, nor am I talking about causality, I'm talking about demonstrable facts.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Facts? None of this is "fact," is "true," or subtantial enough to make a difference.

      "They conveniently ignore the fact of record cold winters that rebuild the ice packs.
      "They conveniently ignore the fact of the heating effects of the massive amounts of methane produced naturally.
      They conveniently ignore the fact of the increase in magma activity heating the Pacific Ocean.
      They conveniently ignore the fact of the magma hot spot under Greenland.
      They conveniently ignore the fact that this is an extreme weather cycle similar to others that have occurred in Earth's history."

      And for you xenophobes, comrade means companion or brother.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sri

      Shut up man. My 12 year old cousin said that, after I read your comment out to him.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gbird

      Oh, yeah there's also the fact that carbon traps heat and we pump a lot of carbon into the atmosphere. Even if one doesn't believe that man causes global warming, you'd have to know little or nothing about physics to deny that by pumping carbon into the atmosphere, we are making it worse.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Fred,

      You conviently left your mind in 7th grade class.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      The brown shirt tea party never gives up.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. pk

    Maybe the ice isn't melting.. Maybe something is pulling it under.. (enter creepy music here)

    September 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. angrynotmad7

    I already said...............mans been playing with the weather..............they seed the clouds dont they?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. steve

    Pray with governor Perry to end the drought in Texas....but there isn't such thing as global warming.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • angrynotmad7

      Perry knows all about seeding the clouds..........i am sure his buddies do:)

      September 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. A Concerned Scholar

    First I want to thank the scientists who’s efforts have gone basically unrewarded in the research and analysis of global warming. I wish I could have been able to contribute as well but I was not fortunate enough to do so. Now for my comment to all the criticizing fools who are full of nothing but cheap talk and bs. When you car starts to float away and that snow storm seems a lot nastier than it did ten years ago – well I hate to say they told you so. Get a good lock at the Polar Bears in the zoo – because that will be the last you see of them – but you are also part of the food chain too so prepare for the worst.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. angrynotmad7

    The problem with this issue about global warming is, "It seems to be clear that this is a further consequence of the man-made global does not hold true. This is only 1 percent and the study from satelite has been recent......I dont believe this at all but only half of what I just read. Man has found a way to alter the weather and to say they are afraid that the world is coming to an end and they cannot stop it. By the way.............there is an increase of polar bears, duh?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • not bob levy

      YOU'RE AN IDIOT:
      Taken directly from polarbearsinternational site:
      At the 2009 meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, scientists reported that of the 19 subpopulations* of polar bears:

      •8 are declining.
      •3 are stable.
      •1 is increasing.
      By comparison, in 2005:

      •5 were declining.
      •5 were stable.
      •2 were increasing.
      *insuffiecient data on the other 7

      September 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • angrynotmad7

      First of all name calling is something that I don't do but it does warn for me to relate to the fact its how you see things or read things.......maybe you don't understand or why it is true to say about the increase of polar bears........I heard this straight from a reliable source not from a website or something anyone one said.............find the facts that are true.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chris

    I just had to reply to this :

    "These are the very people who think the melting ice is making the ocean rise, yet have never had the ice in their glass of lemonade melt and cause the glass to overflow. Give me a break."

    Actually YES IT DOES. The issue is WATER DISPLACEMENT, which is a matter of volume, not weight. Ice is < dense than water, so it floats. In an ice berg, about %10 of that ice is above the surface, and is NOT displacing water. If, you fill your glass to the brim, and have ice cubes that are submerged, yet sticking up above the rim of the glass, as they melt, you will have streams of water running down the sides.

    I don't know if there is enough ice at the cap to cause worldwide flooding if the 10% were all of a sudden displaced, I simply have no idea of the volume of all that ice, and how much of it is actually land covered in ice.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • rwmsrobertw

      Chris,

      You appear that a melting ice cube floating in water will rise the water level if it melts. If I am misunderstanding you, I apologize in advance.

      I just want to make it very clear that ice floating in water will not cause the water level to rise as it melts. Yes, ice has lower density (a higher volume than the same weight of water) than water, but as the ice melts, the density of the melt water is (practically) the same as the water in the ocean. So melting floating ice doe not raise sea level.

      Climatologists (but not all Internet comentators) are well aware of this fact. The reason that scientists know that the ocean levels are going to rise as the earth warrms is not from floating ice melting, but rather from the ice that is on land (in Greenland and Antarctics, for example), and from ice that is so thinck that it rests on the sea bed (so that it is not really floating). This is not a mistake that all of the world's scientists have made (as the person Chris is responding to seems to think).

      September 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Actually it doesn't. The melted ice takes a bit less volume and the ice will continue to float 90% below / 10% above the water line, which remains the same. Any number of science sites will tell you how that works. e.g. http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/experiments/iceoverflow.html . The only way the sea level will rise is if land based ice (Greenland, Antarctica, etc.) melts which adds water the the ocean.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DWalker

    Okay, will someone explain to me, why or how you are going to convince a billion plus Indians and many more Chinese to stop buying that first car or that first freezer or the first microwave and more importantly reduce their carbon foot print. These people have lived very close to nature for generations and have contibuted very little, in the past , towards any kind of climate change when compared to the industrialized west and the so-called DEVELOPED countries, and in return these countries have been branded THIRD-WORLD and UNDER-DEVELOPED for their way of life. I am afraid no matter what the west has to say now facing a global threat such as climate change, the developing worlds wants their share of HUMMERS, SUVS, and million dollar mansions. GOOD LUCK stopping them now. Unfortunately "lead by example will not work, so go on and buy that next supercharged 19MPG V8, I just did, might as well enjoy the power of fossil fuels before its all over.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • angrynotmad7

      I am sure its too late...........and its because of the greed we have in this country but the other countries as well...........its takes more then two to tango..:)

      September 12, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sauce

      We will all be dead before any of this takes effect so relax and don't have kids.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. A Concerned Scholar

    its too late – you were told long ago

    September 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • angrynotmad7

      yes and is it not funny how they twist and turn things to make the road go the direction they want? Its what serves mans needs not the peoples................:)

      September 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

    Damon

    Exactly right. What is funny is the mentality of quite a few people on a certain side of the political line think that "if it was going to happen anyway, whats the problem?, its natural!"...

    Would they be the ones who pray for rain ?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ryno

    In 50 years, when we use sunblock by the gallon to step outside during the summer, the deniers will still be denying. Meanwhile, oil will be $10+/gallon and no viable alternative will have been developed enough due to the lobbyists of Big Oil convincing the Tea Partiers we elected to make alternative energy sources illegal. Then Arctic Ocean will be trying to recover from yet another massive spill in what used be the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (known at that time as Palin Land"), polar bears will be declared "extinct" and I will be telling my grandchildren about "the frigid days of the early 2000s when the Earth was trapped in an ice age".

    September 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • angrynotmad7

      There is reason for sun-block.............its to stop your body of getting the sun it needs. If it don't get the sun it needs you are most likely to get cancers. So, who are they to stop us getting the sun we need. Our bodies need it........they are finding out now the exposure to sun is very benefical...............get at least 1 hour a day of sun and DONT USE BLOCKERS.......... they cause the cancers....................PEOPLE WAKE UP!!!

      September 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Seriously angry??? I don't mean to get away from the climate debate here, but as a medical student I can't ignore this. Any doctor will tell you sunblock prevents skin cancers like melanoma which can be very deadly. We need sunlight to produce vitamin D, but using sunblock does not cause cancer by depriving us of vitamin D. Any oncologist, dermatologist, or any other specialty will tell you that.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rdg18

    Wacko liberal science propaganda machine at top speed and all that question their science must hate science. These idiots are one of the reasons I have and never will vote for a libtard/demorat.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      ****** WARNING – DANGER ******

      rdg18

      Wacko liberal science propaganda machine at top speed and all that question their science must hate science. These idiots are one of the reasons I have and never will vote for a libtard/demorat.

      Its ok widdle one, we wouldnt want you anyway,
      only smart people need apply.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bourbonpirate

    Doomsayers...no problem on this end..we still have snow in the back country from last winter

    September 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Curtis

    You mean ice melts in the summer? OMG?! Where are the stories about INCREASED ice down in the southern hemisphere...since it is their winter?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryno

      This is the kind of naivety that has led to this problem. You can't see the forest through the trees. It is NOT comparing data from February with that of September. It is comparing data FROM THE SAME TIME OF THE YEAR, just YEARS EARLIER.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Curtis

      Yep, I'm naive. My weather related degree is a sham...just as 'man made global warming' is.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Yes there has been an increase in ice in Antarctica, however one can not simply let this lead them to believe that global warming is not happening. Arctic and Antarctic ice are different in several ways: There is more water around the antarctic and thus more precipitation, they current streams direct warm air and water more toward the arctic, and the wind patterns in the areas are different. These effects taken together can explain how the antarctic ice is increasing, while arctic ice recedes. As the ocean temperature rises there is more precipitation, and thus Antarctica gets more snow leading to ice. However the arctic gets almost no snow because of the surrounding land masses. Also while the antarctic ice is increasing now due to increased precipitation, the ice is expected to begin decreasing as warming temperatures counter the increased precipitation there.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
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