Climate

Arctic ice loss is “stunning” — total loss possible by 2030, scientists warn

Last week, the Arctic lost an area of ice “almost twice as big as the UK.” The normally staid US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reported:

Even more stunning is that the August 2007 monthly average is the lowest extent in the satellite record for any month, including any previous September, which is typically the lowest month each year.

august-ice-trend.jpg
The NSIDC notes “Another notable aspect of August 2007 was the opening of the Northwest Passage.”

Human-caused climate change is remaking the planet. Ice retreat back in 2005 was already faster than any of the 19 IPCC climate models had predicted. An NSIDC Arctic specialist said: “It’s amazing. It’s simply fallen off a cliff and we’re still losing ice.” He then added:

“If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lose all of its ice then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our childrens’ lifetimes.”

What does this mean? A synthesis report in August 2005 by twenty-one leading climate scientists, supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Arctic Systems Science Program, noted that a summer ice-free Arctic Ocean is “a state not witnessed for at least a million years” and added

The change appears to be driven largely by feedback-enhanced global climate warming, and there seem to be few, if any, processes or feedbacks within the Arctic system that are capable of altering the trajectory toward this “super interglacial” state.

We continue to underestimate crucial amplifying feedbacks that threaten much more serious global warming impacts much sooner than anticipated.

The time to act is now.

26 Responses to Arctic ice loss is “stunning” — total loss possible by 2030, scientists warn

  1. Hippygeerl93 says:

    This makes me so angry!!!! Polar bears are drowning and starving because their ice is melting. people who drive big cars and the bad polluters iof industy should be ashamed of theselves! How can the polar bears survive? i just found out today that dams make global warming too. Nobody knew that but now we do. We should outlaw all big cars as well as dams and anything that could make the heat go up. its too hot already and i have nightmars about it and now another big hurricane just like every summer now its terrible! can even humans survive? i hope I never get pregnant becuase i am afraid about bringing new children in the world

  2. Ken says:

    I can’t wait for Carnival Cruise Lines to sail through the Northwest Passage.

  3. Jay says:

    Polar bears are drowning? They are better swimmers than most mammals. Of the 11 tribes of polar bears tracked in North America 9 are growing in numbers while the other 2 have not changed in the last 20 years. If the ice going so fast, then how come that Brit who tried to sail the fabled northern passage is stuck in the ice and calling for a Russion Ice Breaker to come free him? I do not fall for all of the doom and gloom. I do believe that the Earth has warmed (approximatley 1 degree) but I don’t believe the alarmist view on it. Too many questions abound.

  4. allan says:

    Polar bears are not tribal animals and while they are excellent swimmers, they too need terra firma or at least a big ice flow to rest on.

    Swimming isn’t the big issue for polar bears right now. Rather it’s the fact that marine animals like seals cannot be harvested because they too have no ice upon to rest.

    By the way, Jay, why would a Brit who is travelling the Northwest Passage call on the Russians to rescue him when the Russians don’t operate ice breakers in the passage, ever?

    Logic would dictate calling in the nearest help, which would be Canadian or American rescue aircraft. Look at a map, the Russians are a long way from the Northwest Passage.

    The Russians are not coming. I repeat Jay, the Russians are not coming.

    If you want to deny the realities of climate change then go ahead and keep your head stuck in your mythical arctic ice jams, but don’t try to snow people with claims of Russian ice breakers in the Northwest Passage.

  5. Earl Killian says:

    All this arguing about polar bears when the real news is that the earth system seems be changing faster than scientists predicted (e.g. exhibiting what scientists call non-linear effects). It would therefore somewhat support the “tipping-point” hypothesis. That’s the real news (though it is really preliminary).

    It increasingly looks like the IPCC may have underestimated the problems we face. This is just one more sign that things may be happening faster than the IPCC predicted.

    Once the arctic ice melts, 90% all that solar energy will go into heating the arctic ocean instead of being reflected into space (the ice only absorbs 20%). That causes more warming, leading to faster melting elsewhere (after the arctic sea ice, there is Greenland, and Greenland is already showing signs, as Joe has pointed out in previous blogs).

  6. Earl Killian says:

    Jay says he doesn’t “believe the alarmist view”. I think that’s the wrong perspective. It is not a question of what you think is most likely. The question is how do you act in the face of uncertainty. You need to factor in all the possibilities. The “alarmist view” is a possibility. Unless Jay thinks the “alarmist view” has a probability of exactly 0, he should factor it in. Let’s consider an analogy to see if it helps.

    If someone says to you, “Roll the dice. If you get snake eyes, pay me $100,000. If you don’t, I’ll pay you $10.” Do you roll? On a single roll, the most likely outcome is that you’ll collect $10. Perhaps Jay would take the chance of losing $100,000 to collect $10. I wouldn’t; it is not worth the risk. Mathematicians would look at something called the expected value of this game and conclude your average loss playing the game a lot of times is around $2768 per round, so it really is a bad bet. This is true even though the most likely outcome (97% chance) is to win $10. Even if someone changed to game to being lose $100,000 on snake eyes, and win $2900 otherwise, I might not play. The expected value is $42.67, but that might be too little reward for the risk.

    Playing with the Earth’s climate is somewhat like the game above, except we don’t know the odds as well as we do with a roll of the dice. Does that somehow make it better? I say it makes it worse. What business do you have playing a game when you don’t even know the odds? Because “too many questions abound” (as Jay claims) does not justify playing the game; it should make it more foolhardy.

    Also, in reality the scientists are saying that Jay is wrong about the most likely outcome: it is like losing $100,000 or losing $1000 depending on the roll of the die–nothing to win by playing this game. But what I really object to is that he just bets using the what he guesses is the most likely outcome. Even worse: he’s betting for all of us.

    Science is not about predicting the future; it is about explaining the world. Scientists usually only try to predict the future in carefully controlled, repeatable experiments (which the climate is not). As a society, we are in a way asking the scientists to do something unnatural, extremely hard to do, and error prone. They are reacting is tremendous caution and falling all over themselves to not overstate the case, giving ranges for what is uncontroversial (among scientists), and ignoring anything with a small bit of scientific controversy. This is what leads to the relevance of analogies such as the above. The outcome scientists forecast is bad enough for use to stop and change course. But the possibility that things are much worse than the scientists are willing to forecast should really give us pause. After all, the planet seems to be hinting that is the case.

  7. Jay says:

    Allan, here is the article about Adrian Flanagan calling for the Russian ice breaker as reported in the Australian Herald Sun:
    http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22359472-5005961,00.html
    The Russians may be coming. I repeat Allan, the Russians may be coming.

  8. Joe says:

    Jay — Let’s keep our facts straight. The Brit was NOT trying to traverse the fabled Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific above northern Canada. That has opened up thanks to global warming. As the story notes:

    “A British yachtsman attempting the first solo Arctic sea passage across northern RUSSIA was examining his options after heavier than expected ice blocked his route, his manager said.”

    The NSIDC (at the link in the text) notes that “The Northeast Passage, along the Russian coast, is still blocked by fairly heavy ice conditions north of the Taymyr Peninsula…. Might the Northeast Passage open in the next few weeks? We will be monitoring the situation.”

  9. Hippygeerl93 says:

    Yes, polar bears are drowning! scientists cant say it if it isnt true

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article767459.ece

    Al gore says it too in his great movie”Inconveneirnt truth”.

  10. tomcat27834 says:

    JAY SAYS “polar bears are drowning” ?
    Yes, Jay Says…polar bear “cubs” are drowning……when the ice breaks free the bears have to swim back to shore “mainland” and the baby cubs tire and ultimately drown in alarming numbers…..so tragic.

  11. Dr_Bob says:

    The Russians are coming….

    It would seem that the Brit “Adrian Flanagan” knows no fear…considering his manager is his ex wife! Maybe she knows more about weather patterns etc than the rest of us and planned the route?

    “She described the yachtsman’s mood as “pretty fed-up”.” … so would I be if I listened to the GW alarmists and they kept getting it wrong.

  12. WJ Gollatz says:

    Unfortunately, the writier of this article assumed a “consensus” was made and jumped to the conclusion that humans are driving the large loss of ice. NASA disagrees and believe wind is driving it. I will refer the readers to NASA’s press release on 10/1/2007.

    http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/quikscat-20071001.html

  13. Paul says:

    WJ Gollataz misses the whole point of Nasa’s article. The perennial ice is now so thin (caused by warming) that the wind blows it away, south, where it melts.
    Jeez these guys are desperate to bury their heads in the sand. Good news for them, there will be plenty of sand…

  14. John says:

    I don’t understand why everyone keeps bringing up the polar bears. They are but one species out of the millions that we are about to loose. In fact, they will be the least of our problems compared to the challenges that we will face later this century.

  15. U. R. Beautiful says:

    Hippygeerl93 you will be a wonderful mother one day and I hope that all of us, including your children, will learn to live in peace and harmony with our planet.
    Have hope,
    U. R. Beautiful

  16. polarbear says:

    Polar bears are a powerful symbol, an American icon that most of us, in our wildest imagination, could not have believed might be facing extinction, of most of the populations, if not all.

    The thought of even one drowning (an agonizing death, i hear) because of our stubborn ways, is awful. Or perhaps the vision of floes moving so swiftly that mother bears hold their cubs in their mouths, terrified, looking for a place to get off, would illustrate the polar bear’s plight better. Starvation, too.

    We can attach all our feelings to the great white bear, knowing that she represents all the animals on the planet right now, and especially all the animals in the Arctic.

    I’m not sorry to sound angry. I am sorry it has come to this, and we still twiddle our thumbs. I am certainly not blameless, either.

  17. David says:

    Most of the participants in this discussion are a perfect example of the hysteria and ignorance of the global warming fanatics. The fellow who pointed out that the lost ice was due to unusal wind patterns and not global warming had it exactly right; he acurrately reflected what NASA said.

    And now we have a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that most of this lost ice has returned. And the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction in England, usually a source of global warming scare stories, just reported that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously, after having stabilized over the past eight or so years. This is the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, wiping out much of the warming over the past 100 years.

    And enough with the polar bears. Their numbers have increased five fold in the last 50 years, and most bear populations are doing fine. If some are starving, perhaps it’s because a much greater number are competing for food. But that’s too logical an explanation for the fanatics who want to believe in apocalyptic warming, no matter what the facts say.

    You all need to be a little more skeptical of the scare stories of the special interests who feed this hysteria. Question Authority people.

  18. David says:

    And you all need to stop saying, “Scientists say this or that.” SOME scientists, many of them on government payrolls, push the doom and gloom. Thousands do not, including many who have served on IPCC panels.

    And to mention Gore’s movie is laughable. In spite of his years of training in climate science (?), his movie is chock full of errors. But’s he’s done well for himself. He now works for a corporation seeking to profit from the global warming scare. At least he’ll earn enough money to keep up his huge carbon footprint while he lectures the rest of us.

  19. Dr. South says:

    I find the claim that the “North Pole Could Be Ice Free in 2008” to be very interesting (see web article by CATHERINE BRAHIC at ABCnews.go.com or NewScientist.com). However, I am having difficulty finding a climate scientist who is willing to bet $1,000 that there will be less than 50,000 sq km of ice in the Arctic soon. Therefore, I am willing to give someone a $100 finders fee if they can find any climate modeler who is willing to bet with me that the Arctic will be ice-free by 2013. In fact, to make it more attractive, I am willing to bet that the extent of Arctic ice will not go lower than 50,000 sq km by the year 2013 (ice free does mean no ice, right?).

  20. aym says:

    Well, it’s sept 1, 2008,

    Still a couple of weeks to go to the lowest ice levels and what happened? The second lowest so far ice levels recorded and it still might break through.

    I laughed at denialists claims over the return of the ice and nothing is wrong call. Anyone who actually reads the reports would see that. Yes some put the ice melt of 2007 to a confluence of events that combined but the word used was may. Also in the reports the scientist who said that also said that it would probably make it much harder for subsequent years to keep winter formed ice. Don’t let personal bias remove the qualifications.

    The Hadley center did not report a precipitous drop in temperatures. What it did was a mathematic smoothing out of the data which made it look like there was. This was explained on the site but of course overlooked by every denialist blog and repeated throughout the net. It has spawned everything from NOAA being incompetent and crooked to the global temperature drop story of David’s.

    Every major internationally recognized scientific organization recognizes the validity of AGW as part of how climate works. Even the petroleum geologists. To say that it is just some scientists who work for the gov’t shows a bias. Their work is especially under review. Who would have less bias, a scientist who works for private industry (which benefits more from the status quo) or the gov’t.

    A blog is not a place to find “evidence” to reinforce one’s own views. There are some that even present actual tidbits of real science to convince. Take a look at the actual papers they quote and what do you see, massive misrepresentation or things taken out of context or worse, stuff that isn’t peer reviewed or ever meant to be. So take those so called facts and double check them, and not on sites that have obvious bias.

  21. Shomeir says:

    Global warming and cooling is on a 500 year (approximate) cycle. During the Medieval Warming Period, Greenland was actually green (hence the name GREENland) with a very long growing season. During this same period the Sargasso Sea was warmer than it is today by 2 degrees celsius. The sky is not falling Chicken Little! We are emerging from the cooling period which began with the “Little Ice Age” and we are entering the next warming cycle. Alarmism is nothing new: In the 1960’s it was Paul Ehrlich and his dire predictions of global over population — and who can forget William and Paul Paddock’s prediction of global famine. When I was in high school in the 1960’s we were taught that the next ice age could happen in the next 20 years. Never happened! We have entered an era of alarmism and junk science based on pure unsubstatiated hypotheses. Why is Mars experiencing global warming at the same time the we are experiencing it?

  22. DT says:

    Re: Shomeir (and other denialists..)

    “Why is Mars experiencing global warming..”

    Lets have a little look at Mercury and Venus instead. Venus is over twice the distance from the Sun, yet has a temperature 300-400 degrees hotter than Mercury. Why? – because of an incredible amount of CO2 in Venus atmosphere.
    We’ve known for over a hundred years that CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas, and that more of it means a hotter planet (Arrhenius). Assuming you’re not actually claiming that burning coal doesn’t produce CO2 it should be completely obvious that we’re now dramatically affecting the climate.

    “warming and cooling is on a 500 year cycle”

    …I’m not sure exactly what delusions of grandeur is needed to think that you by yourself have turned out to understand climate better than all of the thousands of scientists who have spent their entire life studying the climate?

    …and No, Mars is not experiencing global warming. See the realclimate link:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/10/global-warming-on-mars/

  23. Shomeir says:

    What’s with all the polar bear nonsense? Polar bears drown – this is live in the wild. Welcome to the real world. The increase in the polar bear population already endangers the seal population. Unless we can teach polar bears to become vegetarians, we definitely do not want to disturb this cycle.

  24. Pooda says:

    My favorite animal is a polar bear and I think that this is not something I would not like to hear because it is very sad. I am 8 years old and I believe that we can slow down the global warming for polar bears by reducing, reusing, and recycling! Polar bears are very cute and my mom likes them too. I would like for these great bears to be around for my kids to enjoy. That will be a while. So we all need to listen and learn from the scientists to help these awesome animals and others. I really hope that Polar bears do not go extinct!!

  25. Hippygeerl93 says:

    The polar bears ARE drowning!!!

    Save all my polar bears! I Love polar bears! =]]]]]]]]

    *Please donate to the polar charity.*
    *Hippygeerl93@hotmail.com*

    Save All The Polar Bears!!!!!!

    For that matter, all bears in general.

    My polar bear is wet from drowning, drowwwwwninggg.

  26. Sherrill Atherton says:

    It breaks my heart when I see Polar Bears standing on a little piece of Ice and them drowning,God put them here for a reason just like us and man is killing them.Global Warming but they dont give a damn.They drive their big fancy cars busses what ever anyway and dont think about Global warming and what’s happing to our world.How selfish and sad.I want to cry and do for them.How would they like it standing on a thin piece of Ice trying to survive.Sherry