Arctic sea ice shrinks to third lowest area on record (Update)

Arctic sea ice reaches lowest 2010 extent, third lowest in satellite record
Arctic sea ice reached what appears to be the lowest 2010 extent, making it the third lowest extent in the satellite record. Credit: CU-Boulder/National snow and Ice Data Center

Arctic sea ice melted over the summer to cover the third smallest area on record, US researchers said Wednesday, warning global warming could leave the region ice free in the month of September 2030.

Last week, at the end of the spring and summer "melt season" in the Arctic, sea ice covered 4.76 million square kilometers (1.84 million square miles), the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center said in an annual report.

"This is only the third time in the satellite record that ice extent has fallen below five million square kilometers (1.93 million square miles), and all those occurrences have been within the past four years," the report said.

A separate report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that in August, too, Arctic sea ice coverage was down sharply, covering an average of six million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles), or 22 percent below the average extent from 1979 to 2000.

The August coverage was the second lowest for Arctic sea ice since records began in 1979. Only 2007 saw a smaller area of the northern sea covered in ice in August, NOAA said.

The record low for Arctic sea ice cover at the end of the spring and summer "melt season" in September, was also in 2007, when ice covered just 4.13 million square kilometers (1.595 million square miles).

Mark Serreze, director of the NSIDC, said climate-change skeptics might seize the fact that Arctic sea ice did not hit a record-low extent this year, but said they would be barking up the wrong tree if they claimed the shrinkage had been stopped.

"Only the third lowest? It didn't set a new record? Well, right. It didn't set a new record but we're still headed down. We're not looking at any kind of recovery here," he told AFP.

In fact, Serreze said, Arctic sea ice cover is shrinking year-round, with more ice melting in the spring and summer months and less ice forming in the fall and winter.

"The Arctic, like the globe as a whole, is warming up and warming up quickly, and we're starting to see the sea ice respond to that. Really, in all months, the sea ice cover is shrinking -- there's an overall downward trend," Serreze told AFP.

"The extent of Arctic ice is dropping at something like 11 percent per decade -- very quickly, in other words.

"Our thinking is that by 2030 or so, if you went out to the Arctic on the first of September, you probably won't see any ice at all. It will look like a blue ocean, we're losing it that quickly," he said.

Losing sea ice cover in the Arctic would affect everything from the obvious, such as people who live in the far north and polar bears, to global weather patterns, said Serreze.

"The Arctic acts as a sort of refrigerator of the northern hemisphere. As we lose the ice cover, we start to change the nature of that refrigerator, and what happens up there affects what happens down here in the middle latitudes," he said.

"We might have less cold outbreaks, which you might say is a good thing, but it's not such a good thing in regions that depend on snowfall for their water supply."

NOAA noted in its report that the first eight months of 2010 were in equal first place with the same period in 1998 for the warmest combined land and ocean surface temperatures on record worldwide, and the summer months were the second warmest on record globally, after 1998.

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Sep 15, 2010
""The ice cover [in 2009--BL] was 970,000 square kilometers (370,000 square miles) greater than the record low of 2007 and 580,000 square kilometers (220,000 square miles) greater than 2008."

Now as I understand it, the Arctic sea ice, which we have only been able to measure since 1979, when the crisis du jour was our catapulting into a new ice age, as evidenced in part by the massive, unprecedented amount of Arctic sea ice in the 1970's, reached a record low (of 31 data points) in 2007. Then in 2008 it went up by 390,000 square kilometers. 2009 found an additional 580,000 square kilometers added over 2008. This brought the grand total increase of 970,000 square kilometers in the last two years, with the second year increase greater than the first year increase.

In the world of climate science this data confirms that the Arctic ice cap is shrinking rapidly, at an increasing rate."

Bob Ludwick - http://jerrypourn...perature

Sep 15, 2010
Could he be referring to multi-year ice ??

Sep 15, 2010
Shootist: Are you trying to tease a trend out of only four years of data? More specifically, are you trying to tease an upward trend out of four years of this context:


Sep 15, 2010
Great, i will finally be able to grow citrus fruits in my summer home in Kamchatka.

Sep 16, 2010
Shootist: You said: "Now as I understand it, the Arctic sea ice, which we have only been able to measure since 1979..." What an unbelievably ignorant statement (carefully using the term ignorant to indicate lack of knowledge not stupidity). In fact, arctic conditions and sea ice extend have been measured, at great risk to the explorers, since 1881. That was the year of the first International Polar year.


You can go to the bottom of this page and get historical web pages:


You can get to US and Russian observations from subs and explorers. The bottom line is that none of the observations are as good as the satellite data and that is why most observations only go back to 1979. However, if you dig through the weather data, ice observations, sonar measurements of thickness and the extensive buoy and ice-breaker data you can get back to the 50s with reasonable estimations and weather earlier than that.

Sep 16, 2010
Continued response to Shootist: Along with the data that is available on early weather there are also the accounts of explorers trying to find the North West passage. I am sure you will bring up the accounts of Roald Amundsen in 1903–1906 navigating the passage. However, it did take him two years stuck in ice and he traveled only the shallows so the path he took was not usable by deep draft ships. A real deep water passage was reported to have opened in August 21st of 2007:


The interesting question is not if the ice is getting thinner and of less extent (anyone who can read data and plot it knows that), it is the question of the existence of similar conditions prior to the Little Ice Age. There are no good data on those times and there are indications that the Vikings sailed well west of the locations open during most of the 20th century. The issue of how open the waters were then is still controversial.

Sep 16, 2010
I hate the 1000 character limit: more to Shootist: The bottom line is that Ronan was correct in that your inference that you can think the arctic is cooling or the ice is extending based on 4 years is ridiculous. Also, your idea that measurement didn't start in the arctic until 1979 is uninformed. There is still a lot to be learned about the ice trends in the arctic and scientists are busy doing that now. Your attempt to draw conclusions that run counter to more than a century of measurement and analysis is baseless propaganda. Do a little research before you say the arctic ice is expanding or that there was no data before 1979.

Sep 16, 2010
The National Snow and Ice Data Center may have miscalled the minimum; ice extent is on the way down again.

Sep 16, 2010
SteveS: Where did you find that information. Their chart shows it still heading up. Can you send the URL for the information?

Sep 16, 2010
This site uses a shorter averaging period and different algorithms to NSIDC. This leads to a slightly higher extent but trends mirror the NSIDC data.


Sep 16, 2010
My guess is that it could drop even further, based on sea ice concentration and ice displacement predictions.

If current weather patterns hold for a couple of more days there is still plenty of scope for compaction to lower the extent, however I think total ice area probably bottomed out before the 10th of September.

This is just a guess so don't jump on me if I'm wrong


Sep 16, 2010
It sure would be interesting to compare polar ice trends on Mars to those here, and see if there are any correlations. I'm sure someone has thought of that already though.

Sep 16, 2010
Shootist: Are you trying to tease a trend out of only four years of data? More specifically, are you trying to tease an upward trend out of four years of this context:


Are the climate scientists trying to tease a trend out of only 31 data points? Seriously?

Bob Ludwick, said. Not I. Though I do agree with his argument.


Sep 16, 2010
Hi Shootist

It's more like three and a half thousand data points



Sep 17, 2010
More sea ice extent loss today



Sep 18, 2010
New minimum on the NSICD graph

But still third lowest extent

Sep 18, 2010
It sure would be interesting to compare polar ice trends on Mars to those here, and see if there are any correlations. I'm sure someone has thought of that already though.

Yeah, there's an inverse correlation in regards to waterice which is primarily inert on Mars. CO2 or Dry Ice follows a similar milankovitch cycle on Mars.. When mars heats up the ice becomes more visible. When mars cools the ice disappears. This is due to the dust storms laying large amounts of sediment onto the poles. When the poles heat up, the surface becomes mobile enough to migrate the sediments where as in the winter, the sediments stack up. This isn't due to the water ice temperature but due to the dry ice or frozen CO2 that lays over the inert water ice due to the lower temperature.

Sep 21, 2010
[Part 1 of 4]
Arctic sea ice is running below the average of the last 25 years, but up from its 2007 low. By how much is by no means clear. Here's a recent message from Wilson Flood about Arctic sea ice:

"Once again discrepancies appear in sea ice graphs. The AMSR-E record shows that at present the ice loss has leveled off and there is an excess of 700000 sq km over 2007 on the same day. NSIDC shows the ice still to be declining steadily with the difference over 2007 at 300000 sq km. Both use 15% sea ice cover as the basis. Differences of this magnitude are not acceptable in what is known as climate 'science.' -W Flood"

What's more, ANTARCTIC sea ice this year has repeatedly set records for INCREASED extent.

Depending on whose satellite data you believe, the net global change in sea ice is approximately zero.

The significance of that fact is that it negates the sea ice albedo positive feedback effect which alarmist climatologists had predicted.

Sep 21, 2010
[Part 2 of 4]
Less positive feedback means less warming effect from forcings such as GHG increases.

What's more, there's a big difference between sea ice near the two poles. Arctic sea ice extent varies more randomly, because it is heavily influenced by wind, because it isn't anchored to a continent. The wind blows the floating Arctic ice cap around. If the wind blows it into warmer water, it melts, so sea ice extent goes down. Wind has much less effect on sea ice in the Southern Ocean. Hence, increases in Antarctic sea ice may be of greater consequence than the similar-scale decreases in Arctic sea ice.

Note that it only takes ONE wrong prediction to falsify an hypothesis or model, and the warmists have been making LOTS of predictions, many of them wrong or even contradictory:

Sep 21, 2010
[Part 3 of 4]
The sea ice numbers are evidence that one of the key assumptions behind climate alarmism is wrong.

You see, every competent scientist knows that CO2, by itself, can't cause much increase in global temperatures. The reason is simply that there is already more than enough CO2 in the atmosphere to block the escape of nearly all IR radiation at the wavelengths to which CO2 is opaque. Adding more has a diminishing effect, and only at the fringes of the CO2 absorption bands.

So why are the alarmists so worried about CO2? Well, they hypothesize that the world's temperatures are unstable, due to "positive feedbacks" which, they suppose, will multiply the tiny effect of additional CO2 on temperatures. They call adding CO2 a "forcing" because it forces the system out of equilibrium.

Sep 21, 2010
[Part 4 of 4]
Chief among the "positive feedbacks" which they expect to multiply the effect of small (CO2-induced) temperature changes is albedo. Simply put, since snow & ice are white, they reflect a larger portion of the sunlight which strikes them, and absorb a smaller portion. The alarmists predict that there will be a large net loss of sea ice as the earth's temperature increases and the ice & snow melt, which will result in more sunlight being absorbed, causing more melting, more heat absorbed, etc..

The problem with that theory is that it doesn't seem to be happening; see:

That's a plot of sea ice extent in the Southern Ocean, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. As you can see, though it fluctuates, the average Southern Ocean sea ice extent so far this year is well above 2009, and 2009 sea ice extent was well above the 1979-present average.

Dave Burton

Sep 21, 2010
ncdave4life: Have you been to your physician to talk about adjusting your medications? I just read through your 4 posts and can't figure out what you are talking about. The arctic sea ice is at least the third lowest and possibly second lowest since 1979. That is what the article is about.

You seem to think that because the article is correct it disproves AGW. Can you please explain your reasoning because I have to admit it seems to be one of the strangest rants I have seen in a while. From my perspective the decline in arctic ice seems to support the predictions of AGW. What am I missing?

Sep 21, 2010
thermodynamics, I'm sorry if I was unclear. Here's the Cliffs Notes version:

Average Arctic sea ice is up again this year, compared to its 2007 low, but still below the 1979-present average. Average Antarctic sea ice is up this year, too, and well ABOVE the 1979-present average. Net sea ice change is approximately zero.

That means that, contrary to the alarmists' computer models, there's little positive feedback to climate change from sea ice albedo.

What's more, Antarctic sea ice extent is less flukey than Arctic sea ice extent, because Antarctic sea ice extent is less influenced by the vagaries of wind.

That means Antarctic sea ice variations matter more than Arctic sea ice variations. (So why do you suppose that AGW alarmists like to talk only about Arctic sea ice extent, and rarely about Antarctic sea ice extent?)

Do you understand, now?

Sep 21, 2010
"Net sea ice change is approximately zero."

Global sea ice area

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