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. aaa

    The "climate" always "changes". Did you know in the not too distant past, Manhattan was covered by a 1 mile thick glacier?

    Did you know the Sahara desert was once a tropical rainforest and before that was underwater and at the bottom of the ocean?

    The ignorance here is astounding.

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

      Ignorance? Wanna enlighten us as to the year that Manhatten was under the glacier, how long it took to get there and how long to recede? Wanna clue us in on the length of time it took the Sahara to go from tropical rainforest to desert? No? I somehow didn't think you would.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geoffrey in Lowell MA

      Yes I did. However, the ice which is melting froze MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO before there were Human Beings. Don't believe me? Read the science. This has nothing to do with the ice ages, this is more warming and FASTER INCREASE in warming than at any time since life has existed.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      You need an education!

      September 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Newyorker

      Did you know, that you sound totally ignorant of the facts, which are disputed only by insane Christian zealots?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Ennis

      So the climate always changes? In response to what or do you believe it's all magic or as a result of some divine deity intervening to alter the laws of physics and chemistry? Yes the climate changes but in response to forcings e.g. orbital changes, CO2 levels in the atmosphere etc.
      The current predominant forcing in the global climate is emissions of CO2 gases mainly by the industrialized world.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • SomeGuy

      So just because historically there has been natural climate change it is impossible for man made climate change to exist? Talk about ignorance......

      Simple scientific calculations and experiments show the greenhouse effect to be a real effect in which certain gases reflect radiation back to earth causing a net heating effect. We know what gases cause such an effect and we can measure the concentrations of those gases. We have observed a significant increase in the concentration of those gases since the industrial revolution and we know of many man made sources that are most likely to have caused this sudden increase in greenhouse gas concentration (primarily the burning of fossil fuels). In addition to these observations we have noticed a warming trend which agrees with result which would be predicted by the greenhouse effect. On top of that the rate of change seems to be much faster than the historic changes in temperature that were not caused by man which leads to further concern.

      Global climate change will likely have a negative impact on modern society and thus many scientists propose that we try to lessen its effects by taking steps such as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions before it is a huge crisis rather than waiting to see if it causes widespread destruction and then reacting. Unfortunately misinformation (primarily spread by fossil fuel companies who will be hurt by such actions) has turned the debate from how should we tackle this problem into a debate on whether or not the problem actually exists. If people would accept the scientific findings on global warming we could move on from this debate and start actually tackling the problem at hand.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • AFC

      September 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • rjolay

      You're right, but nature does that over millions of years... our polar icecap has been degraded in less than 20 years. Watch something other than Fox News, if you want more than just the oil companies' spin.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Hi all, The easiest test is my basic one . I live by the beach in beautiful Oceanside, Ca. for the last 18 years and do you know how much the sea level rose? Yup you guessed id ZERO and I didn't need a degree to figure that out. Its a bunch of BS to scare some money to these lame movements. Believe me I know that putting junk in our atmosphere is bad, but please.... real people like me can figure between the BS and reality!

      September 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • SomeGuy

      Don't worry everyone, Mike from Oceanside CA hasn't noticed a sea level rise over the last 18 years. That is undeniable scientific proof that global climate change isn't real. Obviously all those scientists with their fancy machines are wrong because Oceanside Mike would have definitely noticed a 2 inch rise in sea level over 20 years. I certainly feel much better now.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      So God said, let there be ice?.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Henry Miller

    "It seems to be clear that this is a further consequence of the man-made global warming with global consequences,"

    Clear to who? Climate change fanatics determined to ignore CERN and NASA and to pretend East Anglia never happened?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geoffrey in Lowell MA

      Clear by every measurement that there is. Ice is exposed that has not seen the light of dawn in MILLIONS OF YEARS. The spiking rise in temperature has not occurred since life began. Never rose this fast ... never. Every way to measure this, Global warming is real. CO2 levels are higher than at any time since BEFORE THE dinosaurs.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Ennis

      You do know there have been several independent investigations which have completely exonerated the climate scientists? Also NASA stands by the fact that AGW is real. They are in company with almost 98% of climatologists around the world and every major scientific body.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Geoffrey in Lowell MA

    Someone should tweet this to Perry at the stupid "Tea Party" rally on CNN tonight ... be sure to point out that it is less than it has been since the founding of the Human Race (as determined by science ... not the bible ... long older than the bible)... Yeah Global Warming doesn't exist? Right. Just hot air from Republican politicians I guess?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      And Texas has a lot of hot air at the moment!

      September 12, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

    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.

    Republican/GOP idea of deregulation leads to complete chaos, usually at other people expense.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geoffrey in Lowell MA

      Really? Not true ... every time they list regulations they want to get rid of ... they are necessary. they also are not based on any comprehension of science which makes their judgement more than suspect.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • andy

      Instead of blaming who did it, how about everyone work against it (if possible). The argument that it's normal. or god created, or whatever, does not mean we shouldn't work to curb nasty pollutants. Even if it's volcanoes that create the conditions to warm the planet, it doesn't mean we shouldn't regulate the crap we throw into the air. If the minority are wrong, and humans have nothing to do with it, then fine- we cleaned up the air a bit. If they are wrong then we are killing the planet, ourselves, and should stop. I don't want to bet on them being right. I rather just work to clean up the planet. All this arguing is infantile, and deadly. People whining about goverment regulations should look up the clean water act and fracking before they cry about expensive regulations. I don't care if China's factories don't have regulations and it isn't fair. I live in THIS country. I care about the planet and our children's breath. I DO NOT care about your corporate bottom like losing 1% of its profits. Choose your side- fat-cat GOP corporatists, or the planet and children on it.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • SomeGuy

      While in theory that may be true in practice it seems to be that the Republicans fight any regulation of industry while claiming it is unnecessary and harmful. Many of these regulations might negatively impact business but they are in the best interest of the global community since most of us plan to continue living on this planet for the foreseeable future.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Edward

    The Warmers never mention that the antarctic ice sheet is getting larger. In fact its true!

    September 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geoffrey in Lowell MA

      In fact ... it is not true. It is getting thinner and then sliding down to the ocean where it melts.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • andy

      Where do you pull this crap out of? How deep is it in there?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • SomeGuy

      From "Satellites measure Antarctica is gaining sea ice but losing land ice at an accelerating rate which has implications for sea level rise."

      Sea ice comes and goes during yearly cycles but the main "land" of Antartica, i.e. the land ice, is in fact decreasing.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nostradamus

    While the rest of Countries and foreign leaders are increasingly concerned due to the visible effects of he Global Warming, the United States is the only Country with ignorant oxymorons making mockery and jokes about this climate change that can end much of the living on the planet. And the last time I saw a world map, still the United States was LOCATED in this planet, so we will be also affected. Floods, forest fires, droughts, eathquakes, hurricanes, extreme temperatures are increasing in our Country....And millions believe this is normal. Others believe is false.... or even an invention of China, commies, and Demos,,,,,Other ones believe this is a natural harmless climate change. Why don't you ask to Texas' people about the droughts....or Arizona about forest fire?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chasity

      Dude i totally agree with your view:)...Although, it would suck if the world was destroyed because of global warming :O

      September 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • andy

      I don't think oxymoron is the noun you were looking for there.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. not bob levy

    @Real Tom Paine in the ....
    really dude? @1900 was before the industrial revolution started? Maybe need to look up your history books.
    -not bob levy

    September 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Newyorker

    Tea Party Americans would be happy to hear that this is all part of God's plan for the Rapture.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dr.K.

    The stubborn, willful ignorance displayed here with such indolent pride paints a clear picture of why the US ranks 35th in science literacy out of 36 industrialized nations. It's sincerely disheartening.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Wayne Kernochan

    This is fun. So far, I have found the following misstatements of the science in the article as written and comments:

    1. "due in part to global warming and the albedo effect". More correctly, warming air temperatures due mainly to global warming, warming ocean temperatures due mainly to global warming, and the albedo effect of previous warming. Melting is also occurring from beneath, year-round, as clearly established by thickness sampling over more than 30 years. The summer melting is more affected by albedo, the winter melting (relative to previous years) by ocean temperatures.

    2. "within 20 years ice will be completely gone during the warmer months". Actually, volume trends suggest that within
    8 years ice will be completely gone from mid-July to end of September, and within 30 years during all months of the year. This last may be delayed by a couple of decades, depending on the rate of human-induced global temperature warming, but assuming no major changes in human-caused carbon emissions.

    3. "Earth has been warmer than this for the majority of its existence." Flatly wrong, as shown by multiple studies of archaeological layers and correspondence of temps/vegetation to models/other evidence. We are now warmer than any time in the last 20,000 years, and probably in the last 5 million years. Over the years previous, Earth's temperature on average due to the sun has been increasing by 1 degree centigrade per billion years. A 100,000-year Milankovitch cycle causes variation within about 1 degree Centigrade, and we had been in about 1850 near its peak temperature. On a larger scale, every 400 million years the continents break apart and then recombine; sometimes, unusual underwater volcanic activity that also propels continents faster releases additional carbon to the atmosphere over prolonged periods, which caused the period from 50-60 million years ago in which global average temperatures were about 6 degrees Centigrade warmer - a period called "hell and high water", that certainly played a part in extinction of up to 90 percent of land and ocean species that occurred at that time. Oh, and before life and an atmosphere formed on Earth, the temperatures were on average a good 40 degrees below what they are now.

    4. "Medieval warming period." As multiple studies establishing the links between tree ring, archaological, and chemical evidence have shown, the medieval warming period was clearly below today.

    5. "Sun flares" Records of previous sun flares and models of the process have shown that this has no significant effect on global average temperature. I may also note "sun spots"; same story.

    6. "The 1600s to the 1800s were lower" - I'm not even sure what the point of this is, but if it's temperature, it's more like the 1700s to the 1800s. The dip was slight, and represented a typical variation at the peak of the Milankovitch cycle.

    7. "global cooling in the 1950s and 1960s" - No, there was a slight net dip in temperature due to an increase in smog-type pollution that offset the ongoing global warming. Once smog-type pollution decreased to much lower levels in the 1970s, the temperature made up the lost ground (i.e., got back to close to where it would have increased to had the pollution not occurred) and continued getting warmer faster and faster from there.

    8. "correlation is not causation." Exactly right; which is why human-caused global warming is so solid. Our science, especially chemistry, tells us that carbon in the atmosphere should behave a certain way, including its effects on heat and energy. The only question is whether something else would produce the same effect, and so far nobody has established even a correlation for an alternative hypothesis, much less causation. See above for sun flares, pollution, sun spots, and the Milankovitch cycle.

    9. "Global warming has been shown to be completely false by false data analysis by a researcher in the UK." This concerns evidence that one particular manifestation of global warming due to human-caused carbon emissions - the spike in average global temperature from the 1970s to 2000 - is real. The claim is that a researcher's analysis falsely said that the spike - the so-called "hockey stick" existed. Multiple other studies have confirmed that it existed. Additional evidence from 2000 to 2011 has shown that it has continued at an even greater rate - again, as predicted by the models. And, as if anyone cared, I have looked at the math a bit myself, and to the best of my limited ability have satisfied myself that the analysis reasonably concluded that the spike was real and as approximated. Multiple reviews by independent statisticians have concluded this. They have also concluded that the statistics of critics was flawed.

    10. "CFCs were a false alarm". No, scientists showed that they were causing loss of ozone that would inevitably expose us all to a large increase in skin cancer. They were duly almost completely restricted, the ozone has been slowly recovering, and incidence of skin cancer has been affected as predicted.

    "Gases from land volcanoes release far more carbon dioxide than humans." No. They do release mammoth amounts of ash, which prevent sunlight from reaching the earth and therefore cause temporary cooling. However, they do not affect the carbon emitted to the atmosphere, so that once the ash descends to Earth - over a period of 3-7 years - the temperature snaps back to where the carbon says it should be. This has been established by multiple studies of present, historical, and pre-historical volcano eruptions. See above for a discussion of volcanos underwater on the edge of continental plates.

    12. "Increased clouds will negate the temperature increases of global warming." No. Multiple studies have shown that the net effect of increased water vapor in the air for temperature is slightly positive, as the blockage of sunlight that reduces heat is balanced out by things like side-effects on heat trapping.

    13. "Carbon is .03% of the atmosphere". Wrong. It's now .04%. Over the last 40 years, it has grown by almost 20%. Its rate of growth continues to increase.

    14. "The best thing to do is just adjust." Scientifically wrong. The best thing to do is to reduce human-caused carbon emissions as quickly and as low as humanly possible. Because this is happening so fast, compared to previous increases in carbon in the atmosphere (for example, the one 55 million years ago has been shown to have taken at least 20,000 years), the positive follow-on effects of carbon-caused increases in temperature have already started to kick in, while the negative effects that eventually bring carbon down to .03% won't kick in for another 200 years - and won't succeed until 1000-2000 years from now. The only question now is the magnitude and speed of "hell and high water" - but that's a big question. If we just "adapt" without reducing carbon emissions in a major way, in absolute terms, now, there is now a significant chance that we will be killing off a majority of the human race 200 years from now. It is already likely that within 40 years, the entire Southern US and Mediterranean will be suffering conditions worse than our 1930s Dust Bowl.

    For other information, see

    September 12, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr.K.

      You may be making the mistaken assumption that people here form their beliefs based on evidence. Good luck.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Well said, I for one can not believe that despite the mountain of evidence pointing to man made global warming there is so much public mockery and disbelief of the subject. While no one wants to destroy the world economy, a slow and continuous transition to clean energy will provide us with power without producing greenhouse gases. Yet lobbyist continue to push for more subsidies for dirty energy that artificially lowers the cost, while pointing that green energy can't survive without government subsidies. If we look at total government spending and tax cuts for oil, the cost for gas is more around $12/gal. Instead of spending billions in a fuel that harms the environment, we could spend money on green energy that continuously produces energy with minimal upkeep (at least much less then having to drill for every drop of oil, and going to war over it).

      September 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Hi all, The easiest test is my basic one . I live by the beach in beautiful Oceanside, Ca. for the last 18 years and do you know how much the sea level rose? Yup you guessed it ZERO and I didn't need a degree to figure that out. Its a bunch of BS to scare some money to these lame movements. Believe me I know that putting junk in our atmosphere is bad, but please.... real people like me can figure between the BS and reality!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      If i am right about global warming and do something – we divert disaster
      if i am wrong about global warming – we will have cleaned up our planet a bit

      I dont think i want this decision left up to people who dont believe
      because if they are wrong – we are screwed.
      You DONT take chances with the only planet you have.
      But thats what the Republicans will do if we let them.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kay

    Alvin Gore will make another $50,000,000 on this headline from Democrates. You see is getting even with them for not getting enough of the dead people to get out and vote when he ran for President. They always had before and they just let him down. God Bless Them !

    September 12, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • andy

      What dreamworld do you live in? Explain how this meaningless article translates into Cash for Gore.. Sigh...

      September 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. what?

    What is it with all of the climate change deniers? Do you think that a majority of scientists from all over the world are involved in some sort of conspiracy to place burdens on business? Ridiculous. I'll take the word of science over the word of politicians and businessmen ANY day.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      The easiest test is my basic one . I live by the beach in beautiful Oceanside, Ca. for the last 18 years and do you know how much the sea level rose? Yup you guessed it ZERO and I didn't need a degree to figure that out. Its a bunch of BS to scare some money to these lame movements. Believe me I know that putting junk in our atmosphere is bad, but please.... real people like me can figure between the BS and reality!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      Do you think that a majority of scientists from all over the world are involved in some sort of conspiracy to place burdens on business?
      Sigh........yes they do.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. angrynotmad7

    How you are being mislead...............go new med student............I have worked in the medical field for 30 years so it does support the truth about sunblockers and Vitamin D..............I wish you would get away from that field of work and find the truth behind the medical field..........they will kill you, they treat the source but do not find the problem. Just like chemo, kills and that is the proof. I feel bad to those who enter into the new medical field today.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      I'm not going to argue about the medical field here, it is irrelevant to the article. I do want to say one final point thought, before I stop looking at your posts....
      While yes, some medications like chemo can damage the body as with all things you must look at the trade off of good and bad. So treating cancer that will almost definitely kill someone within 5 years and suffering from some hair loss and nausea is far better than death. I find it odd that a 'medical professional' would question the benefits of something like chemotherapy, but as I do not know you I can't make any assumptions about your knowledge in medicine.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. midogs2

    And the consequences are...........Mother Nature has an innate abilty of purging herself of the pox humanity has created. Too bad other species will have to suffer those consequences as well.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. snowdogg

    There is NO SUCH THING as global climate change... ask any Republicant !

    September 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • angrynotmad7

      September 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
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