Arctic shrinks by an Alaska and 3 Arizonas in August

Another week, another record in Arctic ice loss announced by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC):

Following a record rate of ice loss through the month of August, Arctic sea ice extent already stands as the second-lowest on record, further reinforcing conclusions that the Arctic sea ice cover is in a long-term state of decline. With approximately two weeks left in the melt season, the possibility of setting a new record annual minimum in September remains open.

Why all the melting? It is hot, hot, hot near the home state of our new global-warming-denying GOP VP:

sea surface temperature anomolies 2007, 2008

FIGURE: Sea surface temperature anomalies for August 2008, expressed with respect to 1982 to 2006 mean, correspond closely with ice retreat. Blue line indicates ice edge; warm colors indicate positive sea surface temperature anomalies.

Here is the latest ice extent figure along with more details on the record-breaking ice loss in August:

Graph with months on x axis and extent on y axis

In a typical year, the daily rate of ice loss starts to slow in August as the Arctic begins to cool. By contrast, in August 2008, the daily decline rate remained steadily downward and strong.

The average daily ice loss rate for August 2008 was 78,000 square kilometers per day (30,000 square miles per day). This is the fastest rate of daily ice loss that scientists have ever observed during a single August. Losses were 15,000 square kilometers per day (5,800 square miles per day) faster than in August 2007, and 27,000 square kilometers per day (10,000 square miles per day) faster than average.

This August’s rapid ice loss reflects a thin sea ice cover that needed very little additional energy to melt out.

It’s now pretty clear that the Arctic will be ice free within a decade or so — more than half a century earlier than most climate models predicted. The time to act is yesterday.

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9 Responses to Arctic shrinks by an Alaska and 3 Arizonas in August

  1. In reponse you your quote “The time to act is yesterday.” Here is another one of my favorites: “Today is the tomorrow you should have [considered] yesterday!” Substituted the word “considered” for the word “feared” to tone down “fear” mongering…not that it changes science. I Dugg this article for you.

  2. Anne says:

    Joe, OK, I see your Alaska and 3 Arizonas, and raise you by 4 Arkansas… to pay tribute where tribute is due to the CO2 molecules labeled “Made in Clinton/Gore” administration still lurking above….

  3. Michael says:

    Meanwhile the skeptics continue to spread their lies and deceit to whomever will listen. I noticed Joe D’Aleo and Richard Lindzen were going to be speaking about climate change at a weather related conference in Boston later this fall. That’s akin to hiring tobacco executives to talk about the dangers of smoking.

  4. Jon says:

    Anne: We may as well just mention ever other state in here somewhere… we all know it’s not just the executive branch – every congressman is just as responsible. And we cannot stop there, either, as we should raise every Jon, Joe and yes, every Anne as well…

    This problem didn’t start just in the 1990s, y’know. We are all responsible for our past. We are all responsible for our future.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Off-topic, but here is the first CCS pilot:

    “Germany leads ‘clean coal’ pilot”

    If they would run it with a high percentage of torrified wood replacing coal, it would be carbon-negative instead of just almost carbon-neutral.

  6. Alex J says:

    David, it’s good to see an experimental plant coming online, but as the article notes, there’s the question of cost (including long-term sequestration commitment). Commercial viability may be elusive, particularly in the U.S., where people use more energy and have a lower tolerance for high prices. Wood is fine as far as it can go sustainably. At least in the near future, the supply-demand situation would probably limit it to being a supplement rather than a primary source.

  7. Megan Michaels says:

    Below are two comments made by folks who read your article on Current TV. I am not one of them and I am bewildered at how they can even think this. I have been posting some of your daily blogs on Current and hope this is ok? I absolutely believe what you are writing as I go to other sources to check it out. Where is this person below coming up with his data? I feel frustrated at not being able to refute him as I just don’t understand the science.

    “Why are we focused on the ice loss over the last 5 months? Look at it over time and the loss is insignificant. The “melting season” is almost over… then it will be “freezing season” again. I guarantee the rate that the Arctic gains ice will not make news headlines at all. The global warming scare is ridiculous. One person who should know about that first hand is Palin.”


    Temperature records indicate that the Arctic has actually cooled by 0.88° C over the past fifty years.

    Corrective environmental policies would have a minuscule impact on the climate. According to its own projections, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s own plan would spare the earth only a few hundredths of a degree of warming by middle of the next century.

    Climate change is a natural phenomenon and nothing to be scared or concerned about. Humans have never had and will never have an impact on the earths temperature – negative or positive.

    This has nothing to do with guilt. I care very much for the environment and do all I can to be a good steward of our resources – not because I think the earth is in jeapardy, but because its the right thing to do.”

  8. Andrea R says:

    “Why all the melting? It is hot, hot, hot near the home state of our new global-warming-denying GOP VP:” PRESUMPTIVE GOP VP – but I’m sure God has a plan for her.

  9. john says:


    I find your coment bizzare.

    At least Clinton Gore negotiated a treaty on climate change — yes, it was not introduced into the Senate because Republicans led a preemptive revolt against ratifying it, but they were advocates for doing something, as reflected in the budgets they passed for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

    Bush and Cheney, on the other hand, stalled and blocked and lied even as the science became more and more certain and the forecasts more and more dire.

    Very weird conclusion, Anne. One would almost think you were a doctrinaire, knee-jerk Republican who didn’t traffic in facts.