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. M

    I amazes me how some morons immediately equate someone stating that the global warming is debunk to a Jesus freak. Total morons, I didn't see a thing in most of the 'debunk' statements that said a thing about Jesus or God. Oh, but let's believe Al Gore! Right. Like many said – earth's been here a long time, ice has come and ice has gone. The other side of the scientific community has it right – normal fluxuations in the suns activity. Gore and the global warming freaks are just that – freaks and morons.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • bub

      Are you the Geico guy that's been living under a rock?

      September 12, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      There's no "other side" of the scientific community. That's one of you right wing sheep's favorite delusions – that the scientific community is actually "split" on this opinion. What you actually have are the real scientists on one side, and a fraction of voices – largely those on the polluting industries' payroll – on the other.

      The National Academy of Sciences, in an investigation requested by Congress, concluded last year: "Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment." You can choose to accept the authority of the NAS, or continue to live with your head buried in the sand – your choice.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • kpete

      While it's true that the earth has gone through millions of years of fluctuation and cyclical warming and cooling periods (think of the dinosaurs living in a fairly all-around warmer climate, then the ice age and period of glaciers). But, there is little doubt in the scientific community that human activity and influence is speeding up the process of this era's warming period. They don't claim that global warming (or global climate change as I like to call it) is completely due to humans and their negligence to take care of the environment around them. You anti-global warming people hear the term "global warming" and you freak out. Read the facts, read a book. Might I suggest Field Notes From a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert. Very interesting read.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. rhymeskeema

    CARBON TAX NOW! TAX ME! I AM TO BLAME FOR GLOBAL WARMING! IT'S ALL MY FAULT!

    September 12, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill MI

    And what exactly are we to do with this innocuous bit of data??? I suppose we could file it under all the other meaningless bits of information that we humans think provides us with a small measure of control over our pitiful existence. Remember......GOD IS GREAT, BEER IS GOOD AND PEOPLE ARE CRAZY!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lkl

    Thank God that global warming is just a hoax created by scientists who manipulate data to get money, right Rick Perry? (August 17, 2011 spoken to a crowd in New Hampshire)

    September 12, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • bub

      Perry is up to his a– in fire right now. He can't process warming on a larger scale.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Yes, advanced countries around the world, scientific conferences, technical journals reporting on the alarming acceleration of global warming – they're all in collusion to sell more of Al Gore's book.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joe's Place

    re-post from page 16 that I found interesting.

    Richie
    back in World War 2, a flight of bombers and P-38's took off from the USA in route to England to fight the Germans. Along the way, they ran into very bad weather and had to turn back, but did not have enough fuel to make it to the USA. They landed all the planes on the ice in Greenland. The vital instruments were destroyed after landing and the piolets were picked up- leaving the planes behind. Now jump forward to the early 1990's when a research group went looking for those lost planes. They found the group of planes, but they were now 240+ feet (about 74 meters) under the ice. The researchers bored a large tunnel down through the ice and carved out one of the P-38s and dismantled it- bringing up the pieces to the surface. Those pieces were then taken back to the USA and put together again in KY, and the P-38 actually was able to fly one last flight before being retired to a museum.
    Now fast forward to 2010/2011. Global warming has hit the earth! The ice is melting at extreme rates. Our oceans and seas are rising. Threats of death to all human kind abound.
    Think about this... as soon as those remaining WW2 planes are once again sitting on top of the ice in Greenland, we will be back to the natural state of the world weather wise from the 1940's. Until then, I am not going to worry about global warming as it hasn't even gotten warm enough for long enough to take away the ice that has been in place for 70+ years.
    Oh, also note that in the 1970's, science had us going into an ice age due to the amount of CO2 the world was producing.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Farnsworth

      Joe, Nice to see a war buff commenting on the issue at hand. However, you miss the boat on several key issues. One, the planes were subject to snowfall and melt and glacial drift (approx 3.24 miles) which provided the cover through which we had to bore to secure the first of the "38's. Core samples and photographs ofnthe Super Gopher bore hole sides indicate a drastic reduction in yearly deposition of snow/ice. Next, while the first plane was found approx 89.3m below the surface, the original gpr reading was taken after the seasonal snow cover for the year. Average snow- ice build up for the region in Greenland is normally 8' but in the intervening years since the ditching, the average has been approx only 4.4'. While our recovery of the Glacier Girl was an epic story of teamwork and historic preservation, the information gleaned from the bore and stratification samples DO indicate a severe reduction in snow and ice cover over the intervening years since the squadron set down for the last time.

      September 12, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Farnsworth

      Joe, Nice to see a war buff commenting on the issue at hand. However, you miss the boat on several key issues. One, the planes were subject to snowfall and melt and glacial drift (approx 3.24 miles) which provided the cover through which we had to bore to secure the first of the "38's. Core samples and photographs of the Super Gopher bore hole sides indicate a drastic reduction in yearly deposition of snow/ice. Next, while the first plane was found approx 89.3m below the surface, the original gpr reading was taken after the seasonal snow cover for the year. Average snow- ice build up for the region in Greenland is normally 8' but in the intervening years since the ditching, the average has been approx only 4.4'. While our recovery of the Glacier Girl was an epic story of teamwork and historic preservation, the information gleaned from the bore and stratification samples DO indicate a severe reduction in snow and ice cover over the intervening years since the squadron set down for the last time.

      September 12, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • f

      Agreeed 100% !!! I remember the cries of "The Next Ice Age is coming!!" back in the 1970s. Scared the pants off of this 10 year old. The ice grew thicker on Greenland from 1940s to 1990s. Why? And why was no one complaining there is too much ice and the Ice Age is coming? Scientists have theorized that the earth has changed polar positioning over the course of history (meaning the angle of the earth shifts occassionally). Maybe its doing it again. Who cares? No one has died yet from this supposed "global warming". But Al Gore & Co. have made tons of money off this farce. Why? And where is the money?

      September 14, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. rhymeskeema

    I will never take any Global Warming discussion seriously that does not take into account chemtrails, HAARP, the admitted weaponization of weather, etc. Until these repulsive acts of aggression are recognized, you can take all your green propaganda, and blow it out the hole in the ozone.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      If the govenment could control weather, why wouldn't they help out Texas and Oklahoma with some rain?

      September 12, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. kingjoe1

    We have so little data to go on, that any claim of the effect or reason is merely conjecture. We only temperature readings for a little of 100 years. 100 years is a blink of any eye when compared to how long the earth has been around.
    This like so many other things we see in nature are quite simply earth in all its every changing glory. Relax, man has so very little affect on the earth.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chemist John Pendleton

    Has anyone out there ever realized that the earth has been warming and the ice melting since the end of the last ice age? Has anyone out there been aware that the sea levels have been rising for thousands of years for the same reason?

    September 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Yes, all of us on the payroll of the polluting industries are! Aware, that is. Of our healthier bank balances. Keep up the good work, lemmings.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wayne Kernochan

      Yes, we are quite aware of that. Try reading the part of my post about the Milankovitch cycle, or the Wikipedia description of it. What you are describing happens once every 100,000 years. What we are describing doesn't.

      September 12, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Actually, the world had been in a cooling trend starting around 6,000 years ago until the later half of the nineteen hundreds.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jim

    To Tom:
    A global depression may just bring about global destruction. Remember the origins of WWII? Germany was forced to repay war reparations from WWI it could never repay. The situation is similar today with EU members forcing austerity on other members to repay debt it can never repay. The result was hyper-inflation in Germany and the rise of Nazism. You are being naive if you do not believe that what is happening in Europe right now is the most important issue facing the world.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joepub

    Yeah, 1972 is not really a long time to base your findings. That is too short of a timeline. The results sound a little sketchy to me.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    The National Academy of Sciences, in an investigation requested by Congress, concluded last year: "Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment."

    September 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chris

    Newsflash: Studies funded by Pollution Central, Inc. find that pollution is actually good for your health. Stay tuned!

    September 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mmmmm

    So ironic, I guess bubbblegum sno'balls would be considered an endangered specimen in this region...

    September 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Fozman

    Inside each car there is a small gasoline fire. There are over 600,000,000 cars in the world. Don't you think that if there were no cars, but there were 600,000,000 small gasoline fires around the world at the same time it would have an effect on the climate? Not to mention every other type of power generation going on. Seriously, if a planet that was uninhabited by any mammal just sponaneously erupted in up to 600,000,000 petrol fires, the climate would change.

    September 12, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      And what does this have to do with my bubblegum sno'ball?

      September 12, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. D

    This really sucks. What is the world coming too?!!!!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
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