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. Mark from Louisiana

    A whole half of a percent. Amazing. Would the scientists who did this study have a job if they weren't preaching in the church of environmentalists?

    September 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aerin

      Big Oil would happily pay off the scientists if they would agree to take the money and change their tune.

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

      That's half a percent BELOW the former record...Not a half a percentage point change ( which would equal how much you would gain in IQ if you pulled your head out of ....)

      September 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • awasis

      What's your qualifications to be able to comment on the significance of a 1/2%? How many years of education do you have in climatology? How many years experience do you have in the field? Or are you just a parrot for Fox News and the very few scientists that disagree. I am sure you go to the Church of maximum profit above all else.

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

      huh? so, why didn't the US ratify the law of the sea up there? Laziness? Not focused? Who runs this country, anyway?????? Well, now, it may have created the conflict to end all conflicts and we will be facing century-old friends in the process. I'm disgusted.

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

      They said half a percent BELOW the previous low level record. Not down half a percent total. This is significant data.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • UHhello

      I am getting sick of reading these conspiracy theroy folks who consistantly blame AL Gore or Environmentalists for continued global events that have ONE agreed upon cause by virtually ALL scientists and that it Man Made gases are the largets contributing factor to this change. The only debates in the scientific community that exists is debating how bad it is going to get, wether we have 20 yrs to act or 50 yrs before it is too late. Still the Faux Noise crowd seems to keep spewing a very dangerous anti-man made climate change message. This is the ONLY planet we have people, take responsibility and stop listening to Rush L., Sean H. Glenn Beck and the Republican/Tea Party! They are all unequivocally wrong and have been since day 1. We need drastic change in our activities or we won't be able to complanin about deficits our grand children in heirit because we will be too conserned about feeding them period!

      September 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • no1der

      Yes, 0.5% below the previous low-extent record for this date (2007) but more importantly a full 39% below the 1979-2000 average. That's huge... and that's just the loss in area. The loss in volume is much greater. Most of what's up there now is thin, young ice.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brewmaster

      If the NFL record for longest field goal was broken by half a yard, it would still be the new record.

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

      ...Antartic is growing:
      This is not a general global warming as much as it is climate change. There is a strong sun spot correlation going back centuries with the mild temperature fluctuations on earth. The warming of the 1980-1990s may have already begun to reverse.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      A whole half of a percent ****************************************************

      I went to school with a nerd
      for years people used to throw coins at him in the hallway
      and he would pick them up,
      nickle, penny, dime, quarter.....didnt matter.
      When we graduated he showed up with a brand new Mustang
      he baught from all the money us jerks threw at him.
      Understand the moral here ?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Byron

    Global warming may be a problem but the reality is that nuculear winter will cancel it out. Im looking at you North Korea

    September 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Polis

      So what you're saying is if global warming becomes too perilous we should provoke N. Korea to shoot nukes off?

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

      Yes Byron, you are a genius! Just spew your hate filled crap and pretend it is a solution.

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

      It's not hate filled... You simply misunderstand. The point is that this is a growing problem and no one is willing to change their ways (including myself). War will always be prelevant in our world and it's the simpilest way to negate it all. Anyhow sorry you don't have the same twisted sense of humour as me but no need to PMS all over the place

      September 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. averagejoe67

    One reason that people have trouble believing Global Warming (besides the main salesman) is that the lines that connect Point A to Point B sometimes have flaws. Example: The article states this last summer was the 2nd hottest on record, 1st being 1895. It also states within 20 years there won't be any summer ice on the pole. By that logic, 1915 should have been ice free on the pole, was it? Global Warming might be true, might be bad, it also might be a natural cycle, and it might be good since the population of the earth keeps rapidly expanding and lots of very fertile farmland will be opening up. There are always multiple ways of looking at things besides the sky is falling.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • rj830

      There was (quite a bit) more ice in 1895 than there is now...hence, ice didn't disappear by 1915.

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

      1915 would only have been ice-free had other conditions also existed. That this summer was not as hot as 1895 but we are facing full ice loss suggests something in place that was not between 1895 and 1915.

      The facts are out there. Who shares them is irrelevant.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • averagejoe67

      rj830: So you are saying that 1895 was a one year anomally. Who is to say, the last 20 years aren't a 20 year anomally. Global Warming supporters don't want others to use local data or a few years of cooler weather to claim it doesn't exist, but they also willingly use 100 years of data to 'prove' a point. The Little Ice Age a few hundred years ago lasted about 400 years, but the cycle reversed, maybe this warming will be 400 years also, BUt maybe it will be 121 years or maybe forever, eiether way, the data it is very premature to conclude Global Warming is a solid permanent trend, and to redefine the world's economy over it.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • averagejoe67

      Michaelk: Same response. 'Other conditions existed in 1915...' Well who is to say other conditions exist today. There is some data to show other planets have gone up in temperature also, maybe teh sun is simply a few degrees hotter. In which case, NOTHING humans can do to stop it. People jumping from Point A to Point B taking only the data they find convienent. On both sides.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • River

      1895 was not the hottest on record, that was when the records started to be recorded. Other sources say they were recorded in the 1880s. According to NASA the hottest years have been since 1995, looking at ground and ocean temps., with 2010 being tied at the warmest.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • jweathers

      You aren't reading the article correctly, although it is a bit misleading. It should have read "2010 was the second warmest year on record since tracking began in 1895". I believe 2005 was the warmest year on record and the past 34 years have all been above the average for that time period.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • UHhello

      I cannot believe how stupid some people really are. Do any of you right wing idiots understand what hottest on record means in context with having the top 8 hottest on record occuring in the last 20 yrs and only 2 of the hottest occuring in the last 100? It is happening more often and as it combines year after year slowly shriking the ice mass the ocean gets hotter and hotter melting it faster and faster it is simple think about it. Why do you wear a white T shirt in the reflects heat a black one absorbs heat. Ocean water is darker and absorbs more heat than the Ice does. Do any of your South of the Mason Dixon line idiots get it yet?

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

      Yea as stated by others the wording was misleading. It should have read that temperature recordings since 1895 show that the warmest years on record are: 1) 2005, 2) 2010, 3) 1998, 4) 2003, 5) 2002, 6) 2006, 7) 2009), 8) 2007, 9) 2004, 10) 2001. So the warmest years since 1895 by accurate measure, also the warmest in centuries-millennia based on less accurate measures (tree rings, ice levels, etc.), are since 2000. But it is still bad science right? WHY YOU NO UNDERSTAND?!?!?!?! >:-0

      September 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      How the hell did you get 1915 out of that ?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Aerin

    American Physical Society statement:
    "National Policy
    (Adopted by Council on November 18, 2007)
    Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth's climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide and other gases. They are emitted from fossil fuel combustion and a range of industrial and agricultural processes.
    The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.
    If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.
    Because the complexity of the climate makes accurate prediction difficult, the APS urges an enhanced effort to understand the effects of human activity on the Earth’s climate, and to provide the technological options for meeting the climate challenge in the near and longer terms. The APS also urges governments, universities, national laboratories and its membership to support policies and actions that will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. ..."


    September 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred Flinstone

      Has any of these scientists one ever actually noticed that we are sitting atop a huge ball of super heated molten material and orbit a burning star. Not that I would ever put these two together but just maybe these might have a little thawing effect on the ice ?

      September 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      Don't be a trogladyte, Flintstone. The sun hasn't changed in temperature, and the magma below hasn't gotten hotter. The atmosphere has become more polluted, though.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aerin

      Flintstone. so according to you, over 4 1/2 billion years the sun and the magma should have turned the earth into a crisp by now. oh I forgot the earth is only 5 000 years old according to you. you are so far gone I cannot reach you.

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

      OMG!! are you retarded Fred Flinstone? You were much smarter when you worked at the rock quarry for Mr Slate! Ever since you started working at the quik trip your IQ seems to have dropped below the radar.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sam

    I bet the Repubs will jump on this all over again decrying how the scientists have "made up" all the stuff and/or exaggerated the facts.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Don't forget that the ice continues to melt as Obama is president. What has he done other than spend money? Nothing.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • UHhello

      @ Bob you fail to recall Obama just raised the gas milage to 54 mpg by 2030 if that doesn't use less fossile fuels then I don't know what does. I am remember that our president Obama also implimented tax breaks and incentives to mfg and use solar energy in our homes....but lets just ignore the facts Bob.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. chris beachy

    CNN can help this story by posting a map of the Arctic. The one posted shows Antarctica. In the PR battle that has been unfortunately raised, it matters to be correct.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Crenshawbear

    So, for those folks who don't believe global warming is happening what would be the motivation for all the climate scientists who say it is happening? I've heard getting funding for climate projects might be the reason but surely not all of these scientist would concur simply for that reason. They can't all be in on some big conspiracy to dupe us into thinking the planet is heating up, could they? I've read stories about Indian Ocean and Pacific islands that are going under or have lost vegetation due to salt water intrusion as well as account by Inuits and Eskimos who say the ice is melting and affecting their livelihood. Could they and the media all be in cahoots to persuade us global warming is happening? The answer for me is a big fat NO but guess time will tell. Our descendants may look back at us and ask why we buried our heads in the sand (or worse, up our butts).

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

      what is the motivation for all the climate scientists indeed. Big Oil pays much better than government obviously. I think the climate scientists are telling the facts as they see it, the Truth.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ed Sr

    December 21 2012 here we come! We are going to have a meltdown that will submerge some cities........Atlantis, USA.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      Didn't the end times already occur this past May?

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

      No that May thing was another Christian falacy one of many which seem to get perpetrated year after year. December of 2012 is the year the Myan calander ends and it coincides with the solar system crossing over the center of the Milky Way galaxy to now be on the top hemispherical side of our Galaxy. Can this change mean anything I am not sure but I m not holding my breath for the end of days just yet. Mankind is our biggest danger to ourselves and then the next is probably a collision with a large space object.

      September 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chris

    Figures Liberals would find something to blame this on Republicans

    September 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      Liberals don't blame climate change on republicans. Liberals blame ignorance of climate change on republicans.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • UHhello

      And don't forget Republican education system lead by No child left behind. The dumbing down of America shows the most in the Red states. If you don't believe me look up any national ranking on IQ, graduation, Scoring state and you will find that the Blue states rank higher and have consistantly ranked higher year after year. Yes Republicans are not to blame for climate change they are to blame for most ignorance in America.

      September 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      If the shoe fits.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. George

    This is the end of time. I live on the coast of Florida and the sea level has been rising there every day. I 'm going to have to evacuate in about six months at this rate. Soon all of Florida will be gone and we will be back to 49 states.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • UHhello

      This is what Florida gets for the 2000 election. Had Gore become president we would have been on our way to back tracking some of these trends. So Florida you reap what you sorry!!

      September 12, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rosemary

    our congress and president worry about whether they will be re-elected and don't focus on important things. Well, oil is important. Never did Obama mention that oil is viable under the ice on the polar cap and that the ice is melting fast. Read the article about the war for oil rights in the middle of the story above. Very detailed. We missed the boat by not ratifying a law of the sea and now we LOSE bigtime. WOW, who's running this country????? Stop working on re-election and DO something for this country for once.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • OU812IC

      So you must be brainwashed too or work for oil somehow
      Sure the answer is let's open up all the North and South poles to oil drilling

      September 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Planet Earth - Nice real estate, good location, fixer upper

      So whats the plan Rosemary ?

      Go to war with Russia, Denmark, Iceland.......
      winner takes all ???

      September 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Crenshawbear – can't vouch for the accuracy, of course. At maximum levels my hometown in south Alabama will be on a bayou of the Gulf of Mexico.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. brown

    As the ice decline's, the human will find himself on thin ice ... famine, flood and war will soon follow!

    hahaha! Die human filth, you don't deserve to exist!

    September 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Wzrd1

    There is no warming, not at all. There are no records, such as Europeans seeking a northwest passage since the 1500's on, not at all. Every couple of decades, since the 16th century, explorers tried to find a northwest passage. It continued even after 1772, when Samuel Hearne went by land and proved there is no continuous northwest passage. But, exploration continued.
    Then, in the mid 1800's, it was found to be navigable for brief periods of the year. On some years.
    Now, it's totally free of pack ice in the summer.
    Nope, not warming at all. There are no records. History is all fables. Science only started in 1972, with some satellites.
    Keep on going with your doublethink.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Really?

    The fact of the matter is that this is the result of a half century or more of neglect and there really isn't anything that can be done to stop it. You can jump in one camp and point fingers or you can jump in the other camp and pretend the problem is not there, but it doesn't really changed the fact that it is spilled milk! I suggest everyone just prepare for the worst and pray for the best.

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

      Pray? I geuss that's the answer. Peolple, PRAY that global warming goes away. What else is a stupid uneducated American to do?

      September 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aerin

      Of course we can do something. We can STOP burning fossil fuels.

      September 12, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      @ Laura – Well if you don't believe in the power of prayer, then survive anyway you can. I clearly stated that nothing can stop the impact of global warming. It shall be felt by one and all. I merely suggested that people pray the impact might not be as detrimental as it potentially could be.

      @Aerin – The impact of global warming is a result of the destruction of the ozone. Or did we forget? The ozone already had a gaping hole in it when I was born thanks to the CFC's that my grandparents used. Even if the US stopped burning fossil fuels (which might as well be reverting us back to the stone ages and placing the final nail in the coffin of our economy), you would never convince other nations to stop. Particularly, the nations that have most recently become industrialized. Even if you tried, you would come out looking like a nosy, bossy American. No, I'm afraid there isn't anything that can be done to stop this freight train. So why waste time yelling and crying about it on the internet?

      September 12, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      @Aerin – And one more thing... if America stopped using fossil fuels then it will cease production of goods. This means that other nations will seize the opportunity to fill the tremendous gap the US leaves behind. Which means they will begin using more fossil fuels, and since other nations aren't under the same environmental restrictions that the US governs itself with... that means that global warming will get all the worse even faster. One can't just say 'this solution is what will save us' when in reality there is a domino-effect to consider.

      September 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
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