Arctic Sea Ice Shrinks To Record Low (Again)


The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that Arctic sea ice broke an ominous record yesterday, with the least Arctic sea ice ever measured by satellite. The previous record low was set in September 2005 (see MoJo’s Has The Age Of Chaos Begun?). Yesterday’s record, August 16th, 2007, falls a full month shy of the typical summer low — which means there’s a lot more melting yet to come. Sea ice extent is currently tracking at 2.02 million square miles, just below the 2005 record absolute minimum of 2.05 million square miles.

The Cryosphere Today scooped the news by a week, reporting on August 9th a new Arctic minimum sea ice.

A week before that, I heard it from Dave Carlson, an oceanographer at Oregon State University and current Director of the International Polar Year, during a talk he gave at Science Foo — a kind of science summit put together by O’Reilly Publishing and Nature Publishing, and hosted by Google at the Googleplex. Carlson reported then that NASA already saw the new record in their scopes.

The Sci Foo (FOO = friends of O’Reilly) meeting, by the way, proved exciting, exhilarating, inspiring, and terrifying, in no particular order. The good stuff came from the meeting of so many amazing minds, complete with their own onboard databases of experience and knowledge. The terrifying stuff came from listening to these physicists, mathematicians, bioengineers, biochemists, doctors, and about every other science and technology job known to humans, discuss the Really Big Problems of the day — everything from climate change to bioweapons. Everyone was probing science’s responsibility and knowledge, and tossing around solutions. I’ll be blogging more about this summit in coming posts.

In regards to the Arctic melting trend, it’s likely to continue and even accelerate. You can read the how’s and why’s in my 2006 MoJo article, The Fate of the Ocean. It all has to do with albedo, water temps, positive feedback loops, and the like. JULIA WHITTY

  • Julia Whitty is the environmental correspondent for Mother Jones. Her latest book is Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. For more of her stories, click here.

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