Wash. Post, Wires, etc: It’s Official. Arctic sea ice breaks record low, if only for the satellite record – since 1979

  On Friday, or a few posts down, we noted that the Arctic ice pack was and is headed for a remarkably small extent this year, the lowest since satellites started getting good looks at it 33 years ago. Some research institutes had already declared this a record low year and now the big kahuna in US polar ice studies, the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, rang its bell. The new mark comes as the ice plot still carries a steep downward gradient and with a few weeks to go before the usual period when it bottoms out. Looks like it'll pass below 4 million square kilometers, something of a milestone if only for the dimension of it (ie, explicitly no miles in it).

   A press conference underway at about the time I start writing this will spur plenty of stories. A few outlets got out of the gate a bit early, propelled by a press release and, for the diligent reporters, some calls to other researchers for perspective. An animation of the last month's rapid ice loss is quite impressive. Ditto for the last year. The not-necessarily-notably-liberal folks at the US Navy put together those instructive movies that make the ice look like a squirming, pulsating amoeba.


  • Washington Post – Juliet Eilperin: Arctic sea ice hits record low, scientists say ; Nice punchy job, plenty of context and comment. That includes one by an NSIDC man who notes that the ice lately has gotten so thin that the sea ice, once dominated by stuff many meters thick that had built up over several years, is now mainly a thin, ephemeral, annual event. Brings to mind the Great Lakes (or Hudson Bay) icing over each winter and retreating to zero in the sunnier months. One thing, however – the story makes an error by over-generalization pointed out at this site last week. It refers to a recent study on Antarctica's deep history of warming as applying to the whole continent. It was entirely about events on the long Antarctic Peninsula that reaches toward South America and has a climate pretty well distinct to itself.
  • AP – Seth Borenstein: Warm Arctic sets record for summer sea ice melt ; This post initially had a place-holder shorty. This version reflects a busy hour or two or phone calls or other contact with multiple sources. Last quote of the piece ends with "…we're not going back."
  • Sydney Morning Herald – Ben Cubby: Arctic ice cap shrinks to lowest level yet recorded ; He notes that paleoclimate studies say the last time the ice disappeared was about 130,000 years ago when global temperatures were around 1.5 degrees C higher than now. That's a marker that looks sure to be exceeded shortly. Our Anthropocene epoch really is cookin' with gas now.
  • Los Angeles Times – Thomas H. Maugh II: Arctic sea ice reaches its smallest area ever, still shrinking ; 'Ever' being since 1979 that we know of for sure. But probably for a very long time. Millennia maybe. No knock on Tom Maugh there. Mr. Bolt is correct in his irritatingly incessant boast as the fastest man ever (except who knows? Maybe some guy with a stone-tipped spear in his hand and a dire wolf on his tail).
  • LiveScience  – Wynne Parry: Arctic ice reaches record low, could worsen global warming ;
  • Ars Technica – John Timmer: Arctic sea ice coverage plunges to record low ; Timmer is good. Never met him that I recall, but always wonder what sort of readership Ars Technica gets for his one-man science coverage. This is a solid explainer – does not have a lot of fresh reporting to it but is rich in perspective.
  • NYTimes – Justin Gillis:  Arctic sea ice coverage plunges to record low ;
  • Climate Progress blog – Neven Acropolis, Kevin McKinney: Why the Arctic sea ice death spiral matters ;
  • … More rolling in. Maybe tomorrow I'll add some more.

Related News:

  • NYTimes/Green Blog – Felicity Barringer: For Climate Change, a Possible Trial Could Echo the Scopes Monkey Case ; Penn State's climatology professor Michael Mann is thinking of a libel suit against National Review for flatly declaring his research behind the famed "hockey stick" plot of paleoclimate temperatures to be fraudulent. Fraud is surely an accusation that may bring damages. But Barringer reports well the uncertainties and possible  back fires of bringing tort law near the slippery world of scientific debate.
  • Related to Mann and hockey sticks and also to the arctic ice news is this nearly year-old posting. Skeptical Science – Rob Painting: Arctic Sea Ice Hockey Stick: Melt Unprecedented in Last 1,450 years ; An author of the paper renders sea ice data and paleo reconstruction in hockey stick mode. Plot looks the same, only upside down. If included, the last few seasons' data would make it far more dramatic.

Grist for the Mill: Nat'l Snow and Ice Data Center Press Release ;

–  Charlie Petit

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