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. Saiorse

    The ice is getting thinner, I do not look at photos only. Check out the North Atlantic's saline levels, they are dropping. The ocean is becoming less salty. This happens due to the melting of ice and its transport via the Davis Strait. This water is less salty and cooler thus it sinks and is changing the course of the lower currents and later the Gulf Stream currents. It is happening and if you don't agree,... fine but it changes nothing. Deal with it as you will.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Annette

    Ah but the deniers will have some reason that makes no sense.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John

    The Arctic ice cap covered no land in 1972. Anybody wanna hazard a guess how it covers less today? It is a free-floating ice "island" that rotates slightly faster than the earth spins on its axis, ie, a point on the ice moves slowly eastward making 1 rotation in several years. These is DEEP water under all that ice. Are the Germans counting the (separate) land-based ice such as Greenland?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wayne Kernochan


      September 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BigT

    Hate to break it to all you "sky is falling" people out there but in all seriousness what difference does it make if there is global warming? One, you cannot do anything about it. Two, whether you like it or not your ARE going to die. I've got maybe 30 years if I'm lucky. I really don't care what happens after that.

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

      You do not care about you children, grand children or future ancestors? Wow that is sad, we once use to strive not just to provide a better world for ourselves but a better world for our future generations.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • andy

      I'm assuming you aren't having children and don't care about anyone who does. Sad. Selfish. Good luck with that.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @bigt: what happens if you do live longer?

      September 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    Another point worth thinking about. All this hoorah about how severe the melting is refers only to recorded history. The average sea level for the last 25 million years is about 200 meters higher than now. I wonder where all that water went??? Maybe we're still coming out of the last ice age, and returning to normal?

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

      The ocean has always risen and fallen depending on the climate. Ice age? The ocean falls, Heat? the ocean rises. These are cycles which normally take thousands or tens of thousand years. It has now happened in the last 20 years. Forget the experts. Just look around and see what is happening. My theory is the overload of unregulated manufacturing in china is causing this. Boycott China and watch the change back.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. asdf

    Maybe ideologues deny global warming but the insurance industry sure doesn't (has started pricing it in already). When there is money on the line faith quickly takes a back seat.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tony

    I don't always pee in public, but when I do, I pee in the ocean, as to restore its salinity.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • andy

      Repaired: " I don't always pee i public, but when I do, I PREFER to pee in the ocean. Stay Salty, my friend. "

      September 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bill

    Greed will be the result of the end of humanity as we know it.the BP Oil spill in the Gulf spill last year was going to be cleaned up and now we have tar balls landing in Florida the size of basketballs and all is well hidden. In fact we are going to be drilling more. We deserve what is coming, it is a shame the rich will out live us all. We have 90 year old women with boobs the size and strength of basketballs and if there faces were stretched any further we could see the little left of their brains. Why go on any further, we could write and scream and debate the obvious for decades and we all have our own agendas. If anyone thinks the number of earthquakes, tornadoes, great floods, windstorms, and forest fires in this country is not worse then the birth of this country is a waste arguing the point any further. My only question is who will be burned to death and who will drown before the end comes to us all. Just asking.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Farmer Bob

      Cries and Rallies against global warming made on coal-powered computers. Ironic.

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

    Two and a half million square kilometers of ice, where will the Polar Bears go, I mean only TWO AND A HALF MILLION!

    September 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pointless1


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

    How hard can it be? Put some aluminum foil over the arctic and the sun will once again be reflected. Geesh.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darth Cheney

      That would be a good way to recycle all the tin foil hats out there.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff

    Here we go again. More fear and mis-information. To what end? To kill the middle class basically. This has nothing to do with protecting the environment. This has to do with a small but vocal and well organized group of politicians/activists that believe in Marxism and the only to achieve a Marxist state is to destroy the proletariat(AKA the middle class). Don't beleieve it? Well, just watch, we are getting close to achieving their dreams.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Free Thinker Seeking Reason


      September 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • MC

      You look good in that foil hat.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • f

      The SEIU has millions of people in America and overseas who support the Kyoto Protcol and Cap-and-Trade. Capand Trade essentially is a massive Marxist redistribution of wealth plan to take $$$Billions from American companies and give it to the federal govt. Most of the money will go to "poor" people , while some will go to "poor" countries (to "make them feel richer effect").

      September 14, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. brian

    rick perry says stop with the blasphemous lies, he just put ice in his drink... there is no ice shortage

    September 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Esme

    It makes me feel helpless. I do what little I can do to curb global warming, but how can it ever be enough?

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

    Lot's of complaints about global warming here, but not too much action.

    Unless you are a vegan farmer who "lives off the land" and off-the grid, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nukeboy

    How bout the headline:

    "Out of the last 38 years of the Earth's 6,000,000,000 lifespan, Arctic Ice reached a new low???"

    That a little less biased isn't it. Oh and by the way... Climate change is different to Global Warming. Botherms are used interchangeably in the article. Shockingly lazy journalism or yet more bias???

    September 12, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • no1der

      better check that 6,000,000,000 figure, Nuke, before you go and use the word 'lazy' again

      September 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20