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Arctic Sea Ice Sets Record Low, and it’s Not Over Yet

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The National Snow and Ice Data Center announced Monday that Arctic sea ice is at its lowest extent since satellite observations began in the 1970s. The previous record, set in 2007, saw the Arctic Ocean covered with 1.61 million square miles of ice, but on Sunday, the coverage was just 1.58 million square miles. What makes this milestone especially significant is that there are still two or three weeks left to go in the melt season.

“We still have a little time left,” said NSIDC’s Julienne Stroeve in an interview, “but the rate of melting in August has been really fast, the fastest we’ve ever seen.” It’s starting to slow down, she said, “but I doubt we’ve seen the true minimum.” 

Arctic sea ice extent for August 26, 2012 (right) was 27,000 square miles below the September 18, 2007 daily extent (left). 
Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)

It’s not just a new Guinness record that’s at stake here. The rapid decline in Arctic sea ice during the past several decades is one of the most visible signs of manmade global warming.

Arctic ice, whether on land or on the sea, is a powerful reflector that bounces a lot of sunlight back into space rather than letting it warm the Earth. When that ice melts, it exposes the darker ground or water underneath, turning the region into an energy absorber rather than a reflector. Sea ice is especially vulnerable to melting, and over the past 30 years or so there’s been a downward trend in sea ice coverage in summer. The result is a feedback loop that accelerates global warming, with melting ice leading to more warming of the water below leading to more melting

The Arctic is warming at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the globe, largely due to those feedback loops. In addition, recent research shows that the loss of sea ice cover may be contributing to extreme weather events throughout the Northern Hemisphere, and may be partly responsible for major cold air outbreaks and paralyzing snowstorms in the northeastern U.S. and western Europe during the past few years.

This trend isn’t perfectly steady, since year-to-year weather conditions can affect the melt for a particular season. In 2007, for example, Stroeve said, wind patterns brought warm air into the region and pushed significant amounts of ice out of the Arctic ocean. “This year,” she said, “conditions were kind of chaotic. We did have a big storm in August that broke the ice into smaller pieces, but the breakup was easier because the ice was already thin."

The ice was thin in large part because of the meltbacks in previous summers. In places where the ice doesn’t melt, any additional freezing that happens during the winter can make the so-called multi-year ice even thicker. In places where it does melt, by contrast, the winter refreezing creates thinner first-year ice, which can melt with relative ease the following summer. Since 1980, the average thickness of Arctic sea ice has been cut nearly in half.

That trend is virtually certain to continue, until at some point the Arctic Ocean will be completely ice free for at least part of the summer, turning the planet’s greatest heat shield into a global-warming accelerator.  Exactly when that will take place isn’t clear. “Current models show this happening before 2050,” Stroeve said. “But the trends we observe make me think it could happen earlier than that.”

Comments

By dwdeclare
on August 28th, 2012

well that’s just GREAT!

Reply to this comment

By ilma
on August 28th, 2012

3 pieces of info that the report omits:
1. The satellite measurement have only been around for approx half of a multi-decedal cycle, so to say “lowest on record” may be true, but the record isn’t long enough to form any conclusion or pin it on man.
2. The Arctic ice loss represents only ~0.006 of the global ice mass, so is a drop in the ocean.
3. The Arctic has had low ice or been ice-free before (e.g. 1919-40, see www.arctic-warming.com), with documentary evidence of that. It recovered then, and no reason to believe it won’t recover this time, and again in the future. There’s photos somewhere of submarines having surfaced at an ice-free/low-ice North Pole - in 1959, 1962 & 1987.

The statement “The rapid decline in Arctic sea ice during the past several decades is one of the most visible signs of manmade global warming.” is making claims that cannot be substantiated. There is as yet no causal link between man’s CO2 (at ~3% of total atmospheric CO2) and global temperature rise. The statement also gives no acknowledgement that the ice thinning/break-up/melt is most likely due to warmer ocean currents and storms, which are not man-made, but natural.

I guess the final comment is that man really does have a grandiose opinion of himself and his ability to control global climate. I would really like to see specific evidence that man is able to ‘turn the knob’, both ways, to control specific elements of the climate system and see the expected and corresponding effect. However, considering that if you view the globe as a whole, the climate is a 1-time-only process spanning millenia that exhibits a substantial proportion of temporal-spacial chaotic behaviour, it’s clear that this (man’s control) cannot be done.

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By Joseph Wagner (St. Petersburg, FL 33703)
on August 28th, 2012

Star Trek science babble aside, you don’t need a rocket scientist to verify that your roof is leaking when it rains.  Taking steps now, such as not fighting for your right to openly burn garbage in your backyard just because you pay your taxes, is just being considerate to the children, who we are ultimately leaving this world to.

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By M Tucker
on August 28th, 2012

Humanity has been relentlessly pumping CO2 and other GHG’s into the atmosphere since the dawn of the industrial revolution. It is well know to physicists and chemists and climatologists and geologists that this will warm the earth including the oceans. As CO2 builds up the oceans will acidify. All of this is well know to science and the results are now well documented. Climatologist predicted the poles will warm faster and this is also documented. It had been predicted that the Arctic would become ice free in the summer by the end of this century. It appears that is happening much faster. There is no control involved. It is completely out of control. Civilization has managed to pump more GHG into the atmosphere far faster than nature had ever done in the past. The earth is warming far faster than ever before in the past. Civilization, so far, is completely unable to end fossil fuel use. Mankind requires more resources than any other species to support our civilization and produces a waste stream far larger than any other species. Civilization consumes forests and grasslands to create farmland. Civilization removes mountain tops and creates great pits in the earth large enough to be seen from space. Our waste flows into our waterways, lakes and oceans and the results of that can also be seen from space. It is all completely out of control!

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By NeilS (Billings, MT)
on August 28th, 2012

RE: Lima and dwdeclare:  There are historical ice records in the Arctic going way back before any satellites were launched.  There are no historical occurrences of an ice-free arctic.  Areas in ice open to the ocean are called polynas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polynya) and are a common occurrence. 

“There is as yet no causal link between man’s CO2 (at ~3% of total atmospheric CO2) and global temperature rise. ...”

CO2 is about 0.039 % of the atmosphere (~390ppm) and the causal connection between CO2 and warming has been known for more than a century (see Arrhenius and others).

“man really does have a grandiose opinion of himself and his ability to control global climate”

You can have any world view you want, but science must be quantitative.  In other words, in science you must make quantitative predictions and test them against quantified observations.  The people who make these predictions have done this.  Have you?

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By R. Freedom (Independence, MO 64055)
on August 28th, 2012

Hurray!  This should dispel fears there will be a disastrous rise in sea levels when the ice melts.  We’ve experienced some rather serious ice melts.  Yet, most of us wouldn’t have noticed without reports like these.  Apparently, mother earth is far more resilient than many supposed.  The drastic melts demonstrate the alarmists tend to over-dramatize things.

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By Mike Smith (Pt. Charlotte, Fl 33980)
on August 28th, 2012

In response to ilma. I went to http://www.arctic-warming.com and found this story from national geographic http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/12/1206_041206_global_warming.html.

It says that warming in the Arctic is occurring faster in the Arctic than elsewhere and is almost entirely due to mankind.

I was unable to find the story about the submarines.

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By kurt gray (broomfield colorado 80020)
on August 28th, 2012

here is the quote from your arctic explorer about open water at the pole, a natural phenomenon and seemingly unrelated to the current loss of arctic sea ice.  read a little history of the exploration of the area and what he describes below makes sense…

from one crew member aboard the USS Skate which surfaced at the North Pole in 1959.

“the Skate found open water both in the summer and following winter. We surfaced near the North Pole in the winter through thin ice less than 2 feet thick. The ice moves from Alaska to Iceland and the wind and tides causes open water as the ice breaks up. The Ice at the polar ice cap is an average of 6-8 feet thick, but with the wind and tides the ice will crack and open into large polynyas (areas of open water), these areas will refreeze over with thin ice. We had sonar equipment that would find these open or thin areas to come up through, thus limiting any damage to the submarine. The ice would also close in and cover these areas crushing together making large ice ridges both above and below the water. We came up through a very large opening in 1958 that was 1/2 mile long and 200 yards wide. The wind came up and closed the opening within 2 hours. On both trips we were able to find open water. We were not able to surface through ice thicker than 3 feet.”

- Hester, James E., Personal email communication, December 2000”

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By jesussavesbelievers
on August 28th, 2012

WRONG

THE ICE IS NOT MELTING FROM THE GLOBAL WARMING OR THE AFFECTS OF MAN FOR THIS IS BUT ARROGANCE FROM THE MAN AND IN FACT THIS IS THE HAND OF GOD AND HE CONTROL THE ICE AND THE SEAS AND THE SUNS AND THE EARTH AND THIS IS A TRUE FACT ALL THESES “SCIENTISTS” NEED TO STUDY IS THE BIBLE AND IT WILL ANSWER ALL QUESTIONS AND THE END OF THE EARTH WILL NOT BE GLOBAL WARMING BUT THE COMING OF JESUS OUR SAVIOR AT THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON AND THAT WILL BE COMING RIGHT SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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By Emile (h1r 2h5)
on August 29th, 2012

To Ilma:

I went on the site ‘www.arctic-warming.com’ and nowhere do they speak of an ice-free arctic. They talk about a relative arctic warming that occurred between the 2 wars, a warming that has nothing to do with the present situation.
What is wrong with you people? Don’t you have absolutely no ***** that you cant look reality in the face? This is how I understand the majority of people, who are in denial or are plainly ignoring the facts: they are cowards, they lack the courage to face the truth. And their cowardice will taint us all in the eyes of future generations.

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