Current weather

  • Overcast
  • 57°
  • Comment

Report: Arctic melt worse last five years

Posted: December 1, 2011 - 10:48pm

WASHINGTON — Federal officials say the Arctic region has changed dramatically in the past five years — for the worse.

It’s melting at a near record pace, and it’s darkening and absorbing too much of the sun’s heat. 

A new report card from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rates the polar region with blazing red stop lights on three of five categories and yellow cautions for the other two. Overall, these are not good grades, but it doesn’t mean the Arctic is doomed and it still will freeze in the winter, said report co-editor Jackie Richter-Menge.

The Arctic acts as Earth’s refrigerator, cooling the planet. What’s happening, scientists said, is like someone pushing the fridge’s thermostat much too high.

“It’s not cooling as well as it used to,” Richter-Menge said.

The dramatic changes are from both man-made global warming and recent localized weather shifts, which were on top of the longer term warming trend, scientists said.

The report, written by 121 scientists from around the world, said statistics point to a shift in the Arctic health in 2006. That was right before 2007, when a mix of weather conditions and changing climate led to a record loss of sea ice, from which the region has never recovered. This summer’s sea ice melt was the second worst on record, a tad behind 2007.

“We’ve got a new normal,” said co-author Don Perovich, a geophysicist at the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Research and Engineering Lab. “Whether it’s a tipping point and we’ll never recover, who’s to say?”

The report highlighted statistics to show an Arctic undergoing change:

—A NASA satellite found that 430 billion metric tons of ice melted in Greenland from 2010 to 2011, and the melting is accelerating. Since 2000, Greenland’s 39 widest glaciers shrunk by nearly 530 square miles, about the equivalent of 22 Manhattans.

—The past five years have had the five lowest summer sea ice levels on record. For two straight years, all three major passages through the Arctic have been open in the summer, which is unusual.

—Seven of 19 polar bear sub-populations are shrinking.

—This year’s temperature is roughly 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than what had been normal since 1980.

What’s even more troubling to scientists is that there’s been a record darkening of the normally white Arctic land and sea. White snow and ice reflects solar energy, but a melting darker Arctic in the summer absorbs that heat.

Marco Tedesco of the City College of New York, a co-author, said the darkening is like a speeding train going downhill, adding to the acceleration of warming.

Richter-Menge said the darkening of the Arctic from melting ice and snow “causes more heating, which causes more melting, and on the cycle goes.”

But there are some winners in the warming. The phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean, at the base of the marine food chain, has increased 20 percent compared with the past decade, and some plants are doing better, scientists said.

  • Comment

Comments (4) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
akmscott 12/02/11 - 04:33 pm
When is the national press

When is the national press going to quit reporting these lies.Enough is enough!

frumious 12/03/11 - 05:58 am
Melt Faster

Leave it to the Feds to spin the melting as negative news. Unless you are a Polar Bear, it is positive news. A melted ice cap opens the area to increased oil and gas development, fishing, shipping and other forms of economic development. These would all be positive developments for the people of the world, our nation, our state and for the villages along the Arctic coast who desperately need the incomes to replace the fall of revenue from declining North Slope oil production.

Even Polar Bears will survive this. They have proved there adaptability by surviving previous complete melts of the ice cap. That is scientific fact.

Global warming? Alaskans say: "Bring it on!"


Chair of Alaskans for Global Warming

spwright 12/03/11 - 09:33 am
Portage Glacier 12/3/11

Well All of the Red Neck NaySayers will be upset with this statement but it's a fact.

My 1st Trip to Alaska was in 1976 & My In-Laws took us for a drive to PORTAGE GLACIER.
You could drive right up to the edge of the water & walk over & touch the Huge Chunks of Blue Ice the size of a Semi-Truck.

Now ya gotta get on a boat & pay a fee & a 30 minute boat ride just to see the Ice from a distance.

That is physical Proof that Global Warming Exist, the damn Ice is Melting Big Time. I'm from Missouri, the Show Me State.

SPW "Airborne"

Raoulduke 12/06/11 - 02:54 pm

It has been the fool.Who has been ignoring this very serious problem.Ask the residents who live on the coast of the arctic.They are being run out by rising water.Yes! the melting will open commerce,but Who will set the borders of the claimants.Russia.Norway,Canada,Finland,and the U.S will all have dibs on the area.We will be dead,and gone before this is settled.So! Exploration for gas,and oil will not have any immediate impact.Carter gave tax credits to oil companies for exploration.So! We can be less dependent on foreign oil.Now nearly 40 years later.The oil,and gas companies have an almost Carte Blanche tax credits for not exploring,and We are more dependent on foreign oil.Go figure.I think.There is something fishy happening.We are getting ripped off.

Back to Top


Please Note: You may have disabled JavaScript and/or CSS. Although this news content will be accessible, certain functionality is unavailable.

Skip to News

« back

next »

  • title
  • title
  • title
My Gallery


  • 150 Trading Bay Rd, Kenai, AK 99611
  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback