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. 567

    It is embarrasing to see that people who have made the effort to learn to read and write can so easily dismiss science. How a mighty people have fallen after so much progress. The internet seems to have brought the rest of the world more knowledge, but only seems to have brought ignorance and conspiracy theories to America.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigmountain1969

      If you want to stop climate change then you shouldn't be using energy to surf the web and read articles like this. You are using electricity which most likely comes from a power plant that uses some type of fossil fuel. Boycott the energy producers until they begin to use 100% "renewable" energy. Drive your point home by practicing what you preach. If you can't do that then stop crying.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike

    Really who cares? Geologically speaking, this is perfectly normal. The only people who care about it are those who are in a position to make money off of it (carbon credits, really??). The earth is going to balance itself out, we're not hurting it... If anything it'll "thin the herd" some, and maybe we'll be back at sustainable levels within the next few hundred years. I already plan on not having kids anyway.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thor

      Thin the herd.... Hmmm. So you don't plan on any more kids. Do you know what you are saying about yourself?

      September 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • jweller

      On what do you base your statement? Are you a climate scientist, or just a scientist of any kind, are you a news weatherman, do you work in the climate field? I suspect not. You're just a commenter with a particular point of view. And your comment contributes little to this serious subject.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TriXen

    I have a great idea... let's just set off all the world's nukes at once and get it over with! 🙂

    September 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tacc2

    And yet we continue to do NOTHING about it. The biggest problem isn't our pollution. It's the fact that there are almost 7 BILLION of us polluting. NOTHING at all is being done to address this underlying problem. We're going to breed ourselves into extinction or at the very best a major population die off (doesn't that sound fun?).

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

    Time to read or re-read the book "The Coming Global Superstorm." We are in a time of extreme weather, both hot and cold. How much of this is attributable to humans or to natural forces beyond our control is unknown.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    @Ron Burgundy:
    You're about as godd an. Anchorman as any on CNN...

    September 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. What would Perry do?

    Rick Perry will imprison scientists and put them to death for heresy and bring down the commie satellite that provided actual data. Perry won't let scientific data stand in the way of his religious misbelief!

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

    Nothing to worry about unless it stops the tractor. Then that big ice sheet over north America and the one over Europe will be all that you have to worry about. It only happened once in recorded time.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. A-Bax

    "historic low" – you mean even lower than when there was no ice at all?

    The earth's climate has been dynamic, with a variance outside the range of the so-called record books, for millions of years before humans existed. Human activity does not drive the global climate, period.

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

      Prove it!!!

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

      Yes while the polar caps historically once reached complete melting, that process took 1000s of years, and temperature change that we see now in one year took centuries too occur. The media and politicians are biased toward discounting global warming, and will site inaccurate reports to fuel that point. So we continue to burn fuels that through government subsidized spending are artificially lower than green fuel. If instead we look at the price of fuel taking into account government spending (cause we still must pay for that money through taxes, just not at the pump) green energy produces energy cheaper than fossil fuels.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • brillow

      Ya A-Bax prove that there weren't any humans here millions of years ago.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clayton

      Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. Look it up. All that heavy industry those bloody turtles had going.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • blue

      Saying "the Earth's climate is always changing" is a cop out. It's changing right now, WE are causing it, and WE have to deal with the consequences it will have on the biosphere. Earth the rock doesn't give a damn about what happens to us, but we certainly do!

      September 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Big_D

    The good news is the world will be fine even with global warming. People shoud worry but the world will be here long after we are gone.

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

      Global famine is just one little side effect. FAIL!

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

    GEE...I wonder if WE have anything to do with that???? DDUUUHHHH!

    September 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. WOW

    So many Drug Limbaugh and FOX News mouth breathing scientists commenting on this article. What an incredible scholarly community we have among us.

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

      The high school dropouts are in charge at the Tea Party.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Wil Klusovsky

    It's too funny how people love to cite a small reference period and extrapolate in the name of "science." Take a step back and look at the bigger picture and your very science proves that you have no proof about man-made global warming. What you do have proof of, is that many intend to use junk science to get rich off the sheep.

    All of your Al Gore zombies need to learn to use your brains, not eat them.

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

      Wow again the typical small mindedness continues to surprise me. Let me explain it to you in case you don't get it. We measured ice via satellite for only a short time, but we have also measured ancient ice and temperature levels through natural record keeping via tree rings, ice samples, etc. All the data tells us that since the industrial revolution we saw a massive inc. in the rate of global warming (a rate never before seen). You can call it junk science and parrot off what the right wing has told you to say, or you can actually take a moment to try to understand global warming. Even a basic understanding of thermodynamics and physics will tell you that the pollution from burning carbon fuels will increase the earth's temperature. So while many argue that earth warms through natural cycles (which it does), they never consider the fact that current changes can not be attributed to these natural cycles as the earth is warming to quickly. This means that we will see larger storms and greater droughts, as evaporation increases and the atmosphere holds no water. But let's not actually do anything about, instead we should hold prayer sessions for rain and ignore the evidence that it is right in front of us.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      Dont forget to wipe your mouth.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Randy

    For all you morons and morans for the tea party, I'll break it down to the simplest terms. If we do everything that 98 percent of the climate scientist, say we must do and they are wrong! we end up with a cleaner healthier planet. If on the other hand we do nothing, we end up with a dead planet. Knowing your mentality I assume it's "drill baby drill till we die baby die"!!

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

      First, the planet won't die. It is interesting, even comical, that some think man has such power. What you will have if you do everything 'some' so-called scientists say, is have another huge recession, and dying economy. I am shocked at those so blind to reality they can only see their narrow, agenda-driven view. Al Gore got filthy rich from 'global warming,' now he and his cronies are screaming because some are actually questioning the science, a good question by the way. I know more who subscribe to 'global warming' that are anti-corporation, anti-free enterprise, anti-growth, even anti-American than they are driven by any real science. Take a look at Europe. They have gone the route of 'global warming' scares and bad science. It's been a major factor in crashing their economy. If you want that, go over there (one-way ticket please) and leave real science, and a real country alone.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      There is a maneating shark in the water
      but we are NOT closing the beach.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mark

    I blame that boat in the photo. It's totally leaving the scene of the crime!

    September 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
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