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. the prophet

    This is a difficult subject to respect and understand, the ice is melting because we humans like to create catastrophes for humanity, knowing what causes global worming we still don't do enough to stop the melting process. Our earth is actually getting ready to do a wobble on it's axes, millions will parish

    September 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cocopuf

      Do you know why prophets get stoned?

      September 13, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Benjamin

      Looks like you got one right, got one wrong. Typical of prognosticators.

      Anyway, the Earth wobbles on its axis all the time, nobody dies (or even notices unless they are in navigation, weather, or other technical/scientific work).

      September 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Benjamin

      worming = warming
      axes = axis
      parish = perish

      September 13, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Actually, maybe those words were as intended and we really are heading into a "global worming", or maybe de-worming.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • f

      @Cocopuf...he is stoned.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • The Shephard

      That's exactly what our planet needs a thorough cleansing.

      September 15, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. I Love Greece

    OMG!!!! We're all going to die!!! Oh, wait. It's just ice. It has come back each and every year. So, one of two things is going to happen: it's going to get worse, or it's just a cyclical thing. If the ice on the polar cap melts completely, the oceans will actually drop, not rise, since ice causes basic expansion.

    Also, if it IS caused by global warming, then there is absolutely nothing "we" can do about it. Do the math. Approximately 7 billion people on the planet, all breathing out carbon dioxide. The entire cow population belching out methane, along with the billions of other animals blowing out CO2 as well as humans.

    There are some 1 billion carbon-based vehicles around the world excreting fumes and CO and other such nasty things. There may be some rich people in America and around the World who can "green up" their lives, but the 1.6 billion people in India and the 1.7 billion people in China cannot and will not. Most of the world does everything the cheap way, because that's all there is.

    Our population is only going to continue to grow. More people with breathe; more people will buy and drive vehicles that spew more fumes. It is a certainty.

    What's the solution? Except for running out of petroleum products and reverting back to the 1700's-level of technology, there is none.

    Oh well.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Wayne Kernochan

      wow. lots of stuff to correct.

      "ice comes back each and every year." No. 55 million years ago, for stretches of 10s of millions of years, there was no or extremely little ice anywhere.
      "the oceans will actually drop." No, or only a fraction, due to the added air trapped in the ice, which is why about 10% of an iceberg peeks above the surface. This will be more than counteracted by increased heat in the global oceans, which, for a 10 degree C ocean temperature rise, would make the water expand and the sea level rise 20-30 feet.
      " there is nothing we can do about it." Actually, there is something we "rich" can do about it without requiring china and india to do anything: prevent our own remaining resources of oil, coal, natural gas, and tar sands/oil shale from being used by anybody.

      "do the math" about human and cow emissions. These are less than 20% of total human-caused carbon emissions.

      "our population is only continuing to grow." Every developing country that gives women financial independence moves rapidly towards a "replacement" birth rate that grows the total population slowly if at all. Present projections are that by 2050, human population will be approaching a "steady state" at 7 billion.

      "except for running out of petroleum products and reverting to 1700s-level technology, there is no solution." Solar and wind energy sources are field proven and comprise more than 10% of some countries' energy use. Germany is on track for 20% by 2020. The major added need is for solar storage, to handle surges in demand; this has been developed in the lab at MIT and is therefore probably about 20 years away.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Martial Artist

      @RWMSROBERTW,

      You asked for it, you got it. Here is a small sampling from a few minutes search on the 'net:

      Links to scientific studies casting doubt on anthropogenesis of global warming:

      From Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v476/n7361/full/nature10343.html

      Page of links of for astrophysicist & contributor to the Dr. Sallie Baliunas: http://www.marshall.org/experts.php?id=38

      Data from the Apollo missions: http://www.suite101.com/content/apollo-mission-a-giant-leap-to-discredit-greenhouse-gas-theory-a241363

      MIT research: http://www.tgdaily.com/trendwatch-features/39973-mit-scientists-baffled-by-global-warming-theory-contradicts-scientific-dat

      More NASA data: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2011/07/27/new-nasa-data-blow-gaping-hold-in-global-warming-alarmism/

      Pax et bonum,
      Keith Töpfer

      September 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • OcTears

      Wow, Ive heard people talking out of their exteriors but you take the cake. How about backing your statements up with proof/facts. Anyways the way you look at it you might as well lay down and die now so you dont waste precious air for the humans who will make the change.

      September 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Benjamin

      Sad lack of science there buddy. Ice melting is due to heat (even small amounts) and heat expands materials (other things being constant) and even though water is funny, and salt water is particularly funny in terms of the non linearity of its thermal coefficient, a warmer ocean liquid ocean expands in the temperature range we are talking about, warmer, expanded oceans cause higher water levels.

      I agree though that we are not ALL going to die. Only the most miserable, marginal, at risk populations. Cynically one might say there are too many of us anyway, but that is no reason to turn a blind eye to the likelihood that about a billion people will die from global warming related effects.

      I also agree that probably we are not going to change behavior at the level of individuals; I am pretty motivated but I can't sustain radical changes in the way I consume and use energy. Disappointing truth. But don't give up hope because there are plenty of systematic things that we can do. Fact is that China is in the midst of a green fad, electric cars may save India, and numerous carbon sequestering strategies are under development. An example of success is the way fluorocarbons were regulated, then replaced. Another good example is Tesla electric cars. Strangely, something as ordinary sounding as eating less beef can be positive in both less damage to rain forests and less gaseous pollutants. But mainly we have to regulate industry and transportation to get the big systematic effects that we need to start mitigating atmospheric changes that are the largest contributors to warming.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • f

      Agreed. I say kill all the the unnecessary animals that keep adding CO2. Keep the ones we need for food obviously. The wilderness will survive mucj better without the animals eating a killing trees and bushes. More trees/bushes, more oxygen made. We have had Ice Ages before. It was warm, it got cold (before so-called "man-made global warming") and it got warm again. All by itself. And it will happen agian. Put Al Gore (the biggest fraud in the world) in jail. Al Gore lives by the words of P.T.Barnum – "There is a sucker born every minute".

      September 14, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • kpete

      Everyone who has contradicted your statements has been correct and I whole-heartedly agree with them. The only comment I have to make is on your statement about ocean levels actually dropping as the ice melts. You should have learned in 3rd grade science that ice displaces water (which I believe you mentioned). HOWEVER, for example, put an ice cube in a glass of water. The original level of the water before the ice cube was placed in there, rises. Wait 15 minutes until the ice cube melts in the glass of water. Note how the water level (after the placement of the ice cube) did not rise NOR fall. Therefore, ice only displaces as much water as it would add to cup when it melts. So, before considering the fact that heat makes generally everything expand, your statement about the water level dropping is completely wrong. I could make other comments here, but I really don't want to reiterate what everyone else has said. But one more thing. Cows fart methane, not belch it.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      So your statements are 1) It's not real 2) Even if it were, we can't do anything about it so let's just wreck the planet and screw over our kids because we have no hope of fixing it. How very forward thinking of you.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Richard

    Ignore the "Gore followers." Ignore the "anti-Gore followers." Ignore the radicals and the reactionaries. Ignore the armchair scientists and the know-it-alls on either side who need nothing more than their own anecdotes to "prove" what is and isn't happening in the wider world beyond their living room window.

    Ask the first scientist you see, then the 10th and the 20th and the 50th and the 100th. Listen honestly to what they say. Don't go shopping for a scientist who will tell you what you want to hear. The problem is beyond anecdote and hyperbole and someone's clever chart or clever rebuttal of said chart. The issue is larger than individuals' abilities to bury their heads in the sand. At least educate yourselves. It's juvenile and lazy to argue science with a PhD when you're armed with a high school science education. At the office, do you often make marketing decisions based on what the cleaning staff thinks? No, you let marketing use their knowledge and experience of marketing.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Benjamin

      Good one!

      September 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon G

      You mean the cleaning staff really doesn't know about investing? And, I've been following Dilbert religiously all these years!

      September 13, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • f

      Working in private businesses in office buildings for the past 25 years, I can say I have never seen nor met a scientist. Where do you find 100 scientists?

      September 14, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Wayne Kernochan

      I also worked at private businesses in office buildings - for 28 years. Whenever I wanted to find a scientist, I looked at the list of public seminars given by the local university, and went to one of them if necessary. Somehow, I was able to find a relevant scientist, or 10 of them, every time, and if I'd broadened the scope to 250 miles, I could even have come up with 100.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. thefreeorg

    It's not true that there is nothing we can do about climate change.
    It's not the heat we put out that is the problem, it's the CO2,. There are
    plenty of other energy technologies that don't produce CO2. It's just a case of switching soon enough, before the change becomes irreversible. So it's a very good idea to stir people up, because there's a lead time and later may be too late.
    Alternatives include wind, sun, geothermal, and theres even a CO2-Free "gasoline".. NH3 fuel, which has been suppressed by big oil and could power cars, trains , planes etc more cheaply and pollution free. SEE HERE..http://thefreeonline.wordpress.com/category/ammonia-nh3-co2-free-fuel/

    September 13, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. rwmsrobertw

    To TJ:
    "Will you present links to scientific research showing that humans are not responsible for global warming?"

    I didn't think so.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. Northof39

    If you are standing at the corner of Portage & Main in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba in January, you will be praying for global warming because everything jiggling will have turned into tiny little blue ice cubes. And you don't need any scientific research to confirm that!

    September 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wayne Kernochan

      Excellent example. According to the latest projections, the area all around winnipeg will go into serious if not Dust Bowl drought sometime between 2070 and 2090. Combined with a pickup of perhaps 20 mph in the speed of winds in storms, a likely increase in wildfires that you may hope will not get as bad as those in texas or arizona presently, and insect blights that are apparently beginning to decimate the US Rockies' firs, due to warm-weather insects migrating north, and I suspect that Winnipeg will support fewer people than now, and that it will be equally uncomfortable.

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

    What a waste of time and effort.A microscopic change in ice over 30 +years.The earth is mioons of years old and these finding are rediculious at best.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • JacklynD

      Silly scientists. All that research and all they had to do was ask you.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. The Prophet

    thanks for the spelling erecorrection....i don't want to bagblog nomore

    September 13, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. valwayne

    So what is devastating about the ice melting? There was a statement, but no explanation as to why we should be worried about it, or what negative effects it might have. And what difference will it make if in 20 years the ice melts completely during the summer? It sounds like it may open up a lot of resources so there could be a lot of benefits?

    September 14, 2011 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Why bother asking that question when you clearly won't listen to the answer (which is "Yes, it's a big problem!") when it doesn't jive with what you want to hear? You would be much more honest to say "I just want to ignore the problem and keep being a selfish parasite on the planet".

      September 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Wayne Kernochan

    I'm going to limit this just to the effects of no arctic sea ice in summer.

    Primary negative effects are:

    Open water stores sun's light as heat instead of reflecting it into space, increasing any global temperature by about 1 degree Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees in the Arctic. This is one of the follow-on effects that increases the rate at which the temperature is rising due to global warming. Thus, all other effects of global warming on you are greater and faster. Think, the increase in the cost and effect on you of this year's disasters by about 2-5 times in the next 40 years due to global warming without melt, and multiply that by another 2 times.

    Second, the melting of ice around Greenland releases a "plug" slowing the flow of glaciers to the sea, and increasing the net melt of Greenland land ice. Think, 3 times the present rate (I have left out the effect of no ice in winter, too, which adds another 3 times). MIT has projected a 15 foot rise in sea level by the end of the century - and that only assumes melt of summer ice in 20 years, which is most likely too long. Added to doubling or quadrupling of storm surge height, and any coastline where residences are within 30 feet of present sea level will be vulnerable to the ocean putting salt in the water supply.

    Third, warming of the Arctic Ocean in summer (because there's no ice on top) starts (and has already started) the melt of massive amounts of methane stored as methane clathrates in the seas north of Russia. If released as rapidly as projected, this will inject, in effect, as much carbon/methane as is projected to be released by humans under "business as usual" this century, thus almost doubling the speed and amount of global temperature rise over the next 90 years.

    You are quite correct that there are possibly major resources available in the Arctic Ocean. However, much of this is oil and methane, whose use would increase the rate and amount of global warming even further.

    I won't bother to go through the major negative effects on everybody on Earth of that rate and speed of global warming. I also won't bother to note that it will kickstart serious melt of Antarctic land ice sometime in the next century - which will eventually lead to another 200-230 feet of sea level rise, and quite likely serious releases of toxic gases along coastlines towards the end of the rise.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phyllis Combs

      Mr. Kernochan, Very impressing statements, worded in a way that is very understanding. Thanks to an accomplished, intelligent individual, appreciate reading your views and opinions, and I strongly agree totally with you.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wayne Kernochan

      Thank you, Phyllis, but I strongly recommend that you try Joe Romm at http://www.climateprogress.com, Mr. Neven (on Arctic sea ice) at neven1.typepad.com, and the folks at http://www.skepticalscience.com. They are much better writers and better scientists than I.

      September 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gj

    Co2 a problem? what about the latest NASA survey stating that the heat from Co2 it turns out, in large part escapes into space??? this is new information?? do we now act on that information and try to anticipate the future ice age??? because according to all you alarmists we need to act act act on global temperature changes!! did you know that wind energy depends heavly on fossil fuels, the coating on these alone is over 1m apiece and the coating does not last more than 10 years, talk about head in the sand

    September 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      If heat from Co2 mostly escapes into space, why is this the hottest year on record? Why have the ten hottest years on record been within the last twenty years? Sure, keep telling yourself that i's cyclical that "any day now" we'll go back on the downward slope of the graph. Of course, you also probably tell yourself that your weight fluctuates and you're just in an upward trend right now and the fifteen pounds you gained this year has nothing to do with the extra soft drink you treat yourself with mid-afternoon. There's no reason to cut back because your weight is "cyclical" and by this time next year you'll be back to your old weight instead of shopping for new pants and having your doctor worried about adult onset diabetes.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • BriGuyPI

      This will not stop guys like Bob. Climate Alarmists only pick the data and information that supports their theory. Climate models are total bogus and do not include many important factors.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. snowdogg

    Global climate change is a HOAX ! Ask any Republicant.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • vet2640

      Hey snowdogg, "spot on"!
      Aloha

      September 15, 2011 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  13. dudley041518

    What's happening in the antarctic?

    September 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bigmac53

    global warming is a LIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chris

    When will the uproar over this whole "global warming / climate change" end already? Why don't people take 10 minutes to do a little research.....that's literally all it takes. The earth has been warming and cooling (dramatically) since the beginning of time. (ie: it didn't just start and it's not man-made!) Jeezus!!

    September 15, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
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