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Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Low Extent 398

mdsolar writes "Arctic sea ice has hit a record low extent for the period of satellite observation. Further, this record has been set in August when the minimum annual sea ice extent (and the prior record) has always come in September. Further still, the ice is still retreating as rapidly as it was in June and July when normally the decrease of sea ice extent slows in August. It is thus possible the the final minimum sea ice extend for 2012 will be seen in October rather than September as has always occurred in the past. More than one monitoring effort agree on the existence of a new record."
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Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Low Extent

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  • Re:Hmmm lets see (Score:4, Interesting)

    by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @07:35PM (#41132497) Journal

    Couple that with the fact salt water freezes at lower than 0 C and that dramatic line this year, it's possible. If people remember the articles a month or so ago, about the very unusual complete surface melt over the surface of the Greenland ice sheet this summer, it also wouldn't be surprising. As far as salt water, I would think given the volume being diluted that the salinity isn't that much less (due to the melting ice), but it would be interesting to see what effect this major melt has on these levels. What does it take to stop the Atlantic conveyor (probably nowhere near that kind of level, but still)?

    That said, I do believe man is responsible for much if not all of the environment change we're seeing, but I really hope that graph is a mistake. I find it somewhat scary. But given the Greenland melt event this year, plus the record high temperatures in the norther hemisphere this year, I think it is probably accurate. Let's hope this year is an anomaly because a change that great in one year is pretty drastic.

  • by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @07:45PM (#41132527)

    ... that if climate change were legitimate, the Earth would "shut down" and prevent any bad consequences.

    It does this regularly. We call them Extinction Level Events. When things get too out of balance the Earth tends to get rid of the thing causing the imbalance. That's why we should take warning signs seriously.

  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @07:54PM (#41132593)

    Here's a paper about Arctic sea ice for the past 47 million years: "History of sea ice in the Arctic" (Polyak, et. al. 2010) [osu.edu]. It may have some of the information you seek. Here's the abstract:

    Arctic sea-ice extent and volume are declining rapidly. Several studies project that the Arctic Ocean may become seasonally ice-free by the year 2040 or even earlier. Putting this into perspective requires information on the history of Arctic sea-ice conditions through the geologic past. This information can be provided by proxy records from the Arctic Ocean floor and from the surrounding coasts. Although existing records are far from complete, they indicate that sea ice became a feature of the Arctic by 47 Ma, following a pronounced decline in atmospheric pCO2 after the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Optimum, and consistently covered at least part of the Arctic Ocean for no less than the last 13–14 million years. Ice was apparently most wide-spread during the last 2–3 million years, in accordance with Earth’s overall cooler climate. Nevertheless, episodes of considerably reduced sea ice or even seasonally ice-free conditions occurred during warmer periods linked to orbital variations. The last low-ice event related to orbital forcing (high insolation) was in the early Holocene, after which the northern high latitudes cooled overall, with some superimposed shorter-term (multidecadal to millennial-scale) and lower-magnitude variability. The current reduction in Arctic ice cover started in the late19th century, consistent with the rapidly warming climate, and became very pronounced over the last three decades. This ice loss appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years and unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities. 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved

  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:32PM (#41132861) Homepage Journal

    Now I look at the slope of the line on that chart and I think the Arctic is going to be to be pretty close to ice free THIS summer.

    Well, note that the graph is missing it's zero line. If you add that in, below the line of month names, you get a better picture of it all.

    What I see is that the top (light grey) curve, representing the 1980s' average, bottoms out somewhat below 8. This year, it looks like the minimum will be somewhat below 4. So over roughly 3 decades, we've lost roughly half the Arctic sea ice. This would imply a back-of-the-envelope, one-significant-digit estimate of an ice-free Arctic somewhere around 2040.

    Of course, if you look at the graphs too closely, you can sorta see an acceleration, with the 1990s curve somewhat closer to the 1980s curve than to the 2000s curve. Then there are the three lowest years' curves that don't show much of a pattern, and this year's curve way lower than any of the others. But this isn't very many data curves. Maybe it's all accelerating and the Arctic will be ice free by 2020; maybe not.

    One thing that is clear is that we're not going to do much about it. So we should just stock up on a good supply of popcorn, and watch the show. And not buy any ocean-front property, no matter how good a deal the seller makes it sound like (because it's not just sea ice that's melting).

  • Re:Hmmm lets see (Score:5, Interesting)

    by anubi ( 640541 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:41PM (#41132907) Journal
    Yes, That reflectiveness of the white ice as compared to the darkness of the deep blue sea is known as its albedo [wikipedia.org].

    Being I first learned solid state linear design on germanium transistors, I am well aware of something we called "thermal runaway", in which the transistor would bias itself on more and more as it got hotter, yet being biased on was what was making it hot. The hotter it got, the more current it passed. Thermal runaway.

    The result was a fused transistor.

    The mathematics of thermal runaway on those old designs is nearly identical to the albedo-loss calculations of our ice caps. I find it a frightening scenario, as I can't simply change out the planet as easily as I can replace a fused transistor.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 26, 2012 @09:32PM (#41133195)

    I live in northern canada. 57th parallel. The winters have been getting warmer and warmer over the last 20 years. Rarely see -50C now, last winter coldest was -36C.
    The thing is, canada is a nation of lakes and rivers. The water is getting warmer. Coupled with all the large scale hydro electric projects, the temperature of the land is getting warmer over the course of the year. The tipping point you are referring to, is all the peat bog. Its burning in forest fires during the summer, but the big problem will be all the methane it is off gassing. Most of the north is frozen bog..... this will be an interesting experiment.

  • Re:Scary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by microbox ( 704317 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @10:46PM (#41133509)

    And in this economy, climate change isn't even anywhere on the radar. It's a rich people's problem.

    A revenue neutral carbon tax can be used to stimulate the economy, as it has done over the past 10 years in 1/5th of the US economy [wikipedia.org] (relative to the rest of the US economy), and in Germany, which sustained 3% p.a. growth during a global recession.

    AGW is /perceived/ as a rich people's problem; however, the shrill cries of economic Armageddon -- ironically by those who decry "alarmism" -- has confounded sane public discussion on the economic benefits of ploughing oil money directly back into pure market-based innovations that save energy.

    Energy bills have come down in North-Eastern USA for both industry and consumer. It is almost as if Adam's invisible hand can fall captive to tradition, and sometimes needs a little push.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 26, 2012 @11:29PM (#41133733)

    There are people that oppose ITER? I have never heard this before.

    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/press/releases/ITERprojectFrance/ [greenpeace.org]

    Nuclear fusion reactor project in France: an expensive and senseless nuclear stupidity

    Press release - June 28, 2005

    Greenpeace deplores the agreement by the Representatives of the Parties to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) (1) to construct one of the world's largest nuclear fusion experiments in Cadarache, Southern France. The project, estimated to cost 10bn euros, will not generate any electricity, instead it will need massive amounts of energy to heat up.

    etc. etc. etc.

    While I wholeheartedly support Greenpeace in their conservation efforts (eg. saving the whales in 1970s), their other efforts in the realms they know nothing about, like nuclear, kind of negates any goodwill I have towards them.

    How Greenpeace cannot see that nuclear waste is not a problem for nature, but a problem for man, is kind of beyond my level of thinking. Nature doesn't care about nuclear waste because nature functions through evolution via natural selection. DNA damage, mutations, cancers, etc. don't matter provided some can survive. Human society does not follow those principles and hence any nuclear waste "problem" is a problem for man, not a problem for nature.

    A wise man said that the only way to save the Amazon jungle is to spread nuclear waste all over it. I say he was right.

  • Re:Hmmm lets see (Score:5, Interesting)

    by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Monday August 27, 2012 @12:37AM (#41134097)

    Yep, the top 10 feet of the oceans contains as much heat energy as the entire atmosphere.

  • by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Monday August 27, 2012 @01:30AM (#41134287)

    If some Psychic Tarot reader tells me that catastrophe is going to strike me down unless I throw a big fat wad of 50s into her bowl, should I simply take the alarm at face value? Let's say she shows me something in a crystal ball, or in astrological charts, or in twenty decks of cards that all show me the Death card - should that make me more apt to believe her?

    Heck, while we're talking about diet and exercise, why the fuck should I listen to a doctor who insists that I need a low-fat/low-calorie/high-exercise regimen to curb my obesity, when caloric restriction and increase exercise *increases hunger*? Why not listen to the doctor who says, "dude, you're insulin resistant, and the consumption of starches and sugars is causing your fat cells to hold onto fat, your liver to package cholesterol into dangerous particle sizes. Kick the insulin levels down, and things will get better, no matter what your overall caloric intake or exercise level is." Doctor #1 will see any success of yours as an affirmation, and any failure of yours as a sign that you didn't comply. Doctor #2 actually has a falsifiable hypothesis backed up by clinical research.

    The problem, Crypto, is that you've got no idea what the "BEST" plan is, but you want us to assume that it's yours :)

  • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Monday August 27, 2012 @03:07AM (#41134611) Homepage

    Slashdot is one of the oldest nerd/tech blogs in existence, before there even was a word for such a thing. For this reason, it's a bit peculiar:

    1. Unbelivable as it may seem, the net had a higher share of libertarians before than today. Libertarians often (not always) deny global warming because a) it gives the uncomfortable feeling that strong government action may be needed to address it, and b) they have no problem assuming they're smarter than climate scientists, because they assume they're smarter than everyone anyway.

    2. Since it is so old, many slashdot posters have actually had time to become quite rich from their geek skills. Well-off, established people don't want to believe the world is in trouble and that they need to change.

    3. There are today a number of tech/geek sites which are arguably more interesting than slashdot. Most have moved on to these. Those who remain are weighted towards the kind of people who don't approve of unnecessary change, i.e. conservatives, who also tend to deny climate science for cultural reasons. (Not inherent reasons, if you ask me climate change is a prime example of unnecessary change).

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"