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Earth Science

Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Low 370

Titus Andronicus writes "Angela Fritz and Jeff Masters of Weather Underground analyze this year's record ongoing Arctic ice melt. Arctic sea ice extent, area, and volume are all at record lows for the post-1979 satellite era. The ice is expected to continue melting for perhaps another couple of weeks. Extreme sea ice melting might help cause greater numbers of more powerful Arctic storms, help to accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, and help to accelerate global warming itself, due to the increased absorption of solar energy into the ocean."
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Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Low

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  • Re:Ice Tea... (Score:5, Informative)

    by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:02AM (#41256929)

    There is natural variability but proxy studies of long term sea ice show it's been at least around 8,000 years since sea ice has been this low and more likely over 100,000 years during the last interglacial.

    The Sun has been through three 11 year cycles since the first satellite went up in 1979 and there's not much correlation between it and sea ice in the record. Volcanoes would normally have a cooling effect and I'm not aware that there has been a significant increase in volcanic activity anyway.

    The sea ice trends have been steadily downwards during the satellite era especially during the past 6 years as shown by the graphs on this page. [google.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:09AM (#41256959)

    Uh... the data we have from ice cores go back way more than 33 years.

  • Re:Ice Tea... (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:10AM (#41256961) Journal
    If you look at the IPCC report (wg1 chapter 2 page 136 although it's already starting to get a bit old), there is still a (minimal) chance that none of it is caused by CO2, because human release of aerosols cause a cooling effect. Of course there are other considerations like methane, etc. Most scientific organizations say things like, "most of the warming we've seen is caused by humans....." Although 'most' is a wiggle word that accurately represents our uncertainty on the matter.

    It's also helps to take this into perspective, look at this graph [uaf.edu], you'll see that we keep talking about the summer extent; the winter extent hasn't changed much. The past year was right up there with 1990s average. And the annual change is dramatically larger than the change in either the summer extent or the winter extent. Also, it is arguably more important to measure the thickness of the ice, rather than the extent, but a falling summer extent might suggest the thickness is shrinking as well. We are measuring that now, but only for a few years.

    In any case you should check out this amazing picture from the article [wxug.com]. Can you guess which direction the earth is spinning?
  • Re:Or... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:30AM (#41257071)

    I like how the very article you cited said the effect was "unlikely to make much difference."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:49AM (#41257149)

    Satellite records of sea ice extent date back to 1979, though a 2011 study by Kinnard et al. shows that the Arctic hasn't seen a melt like this for at least 1,450 years.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Informative)

    by warrigal ( 780670 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:51AM (#41257165)
    William Ewing (Columbia Univ), back in the '50s, said that he had evidence of a 60-year freeze/thaw cycle for the Arctic Sea. Evaporation from an ice-free Arctic Sea fed snow falls on Siberia, Canada and Greenland resulting in glaciers sending floes into the Arctic Sea. As the Sea got covered up the evaporation slowed and so did the glaciers. Rinse and repeat.
  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Informative)

    by steppedleader ( 2490064 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:17AM (#41257303)
    If you look at TFA, the record low that was just surpassed was set between 2006 and 2009. The records only go back to 1979, but the previous record low was not set in 1979; rather, the trend has been downwards ever since the satellite observations began.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:20AM (#41257321)

    Hi there,

    First of all there is some doubt about the data on the Artic Ice shrinkage. The new ice recording tool MASIE from the NOAA does not seem to show any record low. Neither does the multisensor IMS measurer. So it seems it really depends at what thermometer you are looking...

    Second of all, let's look at Antartica. the ice coverage seems to be above average (from the NATICE data). Funny the media is not talking about it...

    The point here is not to deny climate change. It is to point out that the media coverage is skewered towards sensationnalist dramatic announcements and we do not get all the facts of the debate. And no good rational decisions come from a debate fuelled only by sensationnalistic coverage like this.

  • Meaning (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:42AM (#41257401)

    If anyone doesn't get it:

    Less sea ice > more air moisture > more snow.

    So yes, global warming would cause the winters to be harsher in snowbound areas.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:47AM (#41257429)

    If you are measuring for only 35 years, a 35 year low does not mean only 35 years. It means at least 35 years.

    But take a look at the data. It looks like a death spiral. The trend from the data is undeniable. Calling the current extent a record low sort of misses the point because the current amount of ice is a tiny fraction of what it was two decades ago.

    New paper finds deep Arctic Ocean from 50,000 to 11,000 years ago was 1–2C warmer than modern temperatures
    A new paper published in Nature Geoscience finds "From about 50,000 to 11,000 years ago, the central Arctic Basin from 1,000 to 2,500 meters deep was ... 1–2C warmer than modern Arctic Intermediate Water." This finding is particularly surprising because it occurred during the last major ice age.

    Deep Arctic Ocean warming during the last glacial cycle

    T. M. Cronin, G. S. Dwyer, J. Farmer, H. A. Bauch, R. F.
    Spielhagen, M. Jakobsson, J. Nilsson, W. M. Briggs Jr &
    A. Stepanova

    Nature Geoscience (2012) doi:10.1038/ngeo1557

    In the Arctic Ocean, the cold and relatively fresh water
    beneath the sea ice is separated from the underlying warmer
    and saltier Atlantic Layer by a halocline. Ongoing sea ice
    loss and warming in the Arctic Ocean have
    demonstrated the instability of the halocline, with
    implications for further sea ice loss. The stability of the
    halocline through past climate variations is unclear.
    Here we estimate intermediate water temperatures over the
    past 50,000 years from the Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca values of
    ostracods from 31 Arctic sediment cores. From about 50 to
    11 [thousand years] ago, the central Arctic Basin from
    1,000 to 2,500m was occupied by a water mass we call
    Glacial Arctic Intermediate Water. This water mass was
    1–2C warmer than modern Arctic Intermediate Water,
    with temperatures
    peaking during or just before millennial-scale Heinrich cold
    events and the Younger Dryas cold interval. We use
    numerical modelling to show that the intermediate depth
    warming could result from the expected decrease in the flux
    of fresh water to the Arctic Ocean during glacial conditions,
    which would cause the halocline to deepen and push the
    warm Atlantic Layer into intermediate depths. Although not
    modelled, the reduced formation of cold, deep waters due to
    the exposure of the Arctic continental shelf could also
    contribute to the intermediate depth warming.

    Paper finds Arctic sea ice extent 8,000 years ago was less than half of the 'record' low 2007 level
    A paper published in Science finds summer Arctic Sea Ice extent during the Holocene Thermal Maximum 8,000 years ago was "less than half of the record low 2007 level." The paper finds a "general buildup of sea ice from ~ 6,000 years before the present" which reached a maximum during the Little Ice Age and "attained its present (year 2000) extent at 4,000 years before the present"

    A 10,000-Year Record of Arctic Ocean Sea-Ice Variability—View from the Beach
    Svend Funder1,*, Hugues Goosse2, Hans Jepsen1, Eigil Kaas3, Kurt H. Kjær1, Niels J. Korsgaard1, Nicolaj K. Larsen4, Hans Linderson5, Astrid Lyså6, Per Möller5, Jesper Olsen7, Eske Willerslev1

    We present a sea-ice record from northern Greenland covering the past 10,000 years. Multiyear sea ice reached a minimum between ~8500 and 6000 years ago, when the limit of year-round sea ice at the coast of Greenland was located ~1000 kilometers to the north of its present position. The subsequent increase in multiyear sea ice culminated during the past 2500 years and is linked to an increase in ice export from the western Arctic and higher variability of ice-drift routes. When the ice was at its minimum in northern Greenland, it greatly increased at El

  • by delt0r ( 999393 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @04:16AM (#41257729)
    You first.

    That is the problem. Everyone wants *everyone else* to deal with. As long as they can still drive to work with cheap gas and get a shiny new smart phone every year, its clearly other peoples real problem... if only they would deal with it right?

    So what are you doing to deal with it?
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:06AM (#41257959) Homepage

    As a side note from just across the strait here in Iceland, it's been abnormally warm this summer. Was kind of shocking, the peak of Snæfellsjökull (visible from Reykjavík on a clear day) showed through the ice cap. It's never happened before in recorded history. I mean, it was one thing when Iceland got a new tallest waterfall because of the retreating glaciers in Skaftafell, but to see a mountain whose name literally translates as "Snow Mountain" lose so much that its peak became visible... they're saying that at the current rate it's losing ice, the entire glacier will be gone in 20-30 years, and all of Iceland's glaciers in 150-200 years. Just crazy when you think about it, given that one of Iceland's glaciers alone is the largest in Europe by volume and takes up nearly 10% of the country.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @06:45AM (#41258341)

    I work on coal-bearing forests in the Carboniferous (yeah, yeah, saying "in" is standard geology terminology -- I don't *actually* have a time machine), and this is the first I've heard of any type of fungus being responsible for that much change. There is a big change globally in climate as you go from the Carboniferous Period (named such because of the abundance of coal) into the Permian Period. The climate generally becomes more arid. But this is thought to be related to the development of Pangaea and the whole-hemisphere ocean on the other side of it, Panthalassa, not some transformation of forest terrains due to evolution of a new fungus. For that matter, there *are* coals in the Permian, but they are located in places such as India and Australia that people may not be as familiar with. There is also plenty of coal in rocks of all ages from the Carboniferous onward, although it's global abundance does wax and wane with global climate. For example, coal is particularly abundant in the Cretaceous Period and in the Eocene, both times of "greenhouse" conditions. It's less common in, say, the Triassic, which like the Permian has more widespread arid conditions (Pangaea was still breaking up). Coal is forming today as peat in many parts of the world. I have no doubt that the evolution of fungus that could metabolize cellulose was an important event, but it did not result in the end of coal.

  • Re:Ice Tea... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @07:03AM (#41258409) Journal

    How much of it would have happened anyway?

    If we are talking since 1900, none of it according to the best models, if anything the globe would have very slightly cooled. The official IPCC position is more conservative and simply states that "most" of the observed warming is due to our activity (it's the second point in the much maligned 3 point scientific consensus [wikipedia.org])

    A good place to start looking for more detailed answers on sun cycles and volcanos is here [skepticalscience.com], and the youtube channel "climate crock of the week" is also a good place to visit for quality investigative journalism on the subject, (warning it includes strong British sarcasm). But for god's sake don't take my word for it, trusting a single source in the minefield of disinformation on climate science is quite likely to be fatal to your understanding of the issue. WP (or any other reputable encyclopedia) is also a good place to start, and it's hard to go past realclimate.org, it's run by Michael Mann (the hockey stick guy) and features articles and commentary by some of the world's leading climatologists. sourcewatch.org also has an extensive database of front groups, shills and lobbyists who publish climate misinformation, making it relatively simple for a genuine skeptic to work out who is bullshitting them and why. Make no mistake, if your interested in truth these "lobbyists" are your enemy, they will attempt to recruit you into the dwindling ranks of their army of useful idiots [wikipedia.org] they have extensive propoganda experience that has been refined since the days the same people were paid to disrcedit medical science that said smoking causes cancer, somewhat surprisingly such expertise is cheap, (as well as fucking nasty).

    Disclaimer: Unlike the so called "climate change skeptics" I want you to be skeptical of what I say and who I recommend. I've been following the science as an interested layman now for 30yrs, I want you to constructively attack the evidence I'm leaning on [www.ipcc.ch] because (as a grandfather of three) the issue is way too important to allow the mediocrity you speak of in your sig to waste time and sow doubt amongst the uninformed.

    A final bit of good faith advice (Aussie style) - Do you fucking homework mate, your ignorance.is your enemy's most effective weapon.

The road to ruin is always in good repair, and the travellers pay the expense of it. -- Josh Billings