Arctic sea ice reached record lows in 2011

Arctic sea ice reached record lows in 2011. Arguing that this is meaningless because sea ice has been low before is an example of non sequitur – it does not follow. Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre

As the Arctic ice melts into the ocean, the Arctic is darkening and absorbing more radiation, amplifying the effects of global warming according to new research.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ian Eisenman, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, and his team used satellite radiation budget measurements along with satellite microwave sea ice data to document the Arctic-wide decrease in planetary albedo, or reflective coefficient, and its amplifying effect on climate change.

They found that over a 33-year period between 1979 and 2011, the Arctic planetary albedo decreased from 0.52 to 0.48, meaning that an additional 6.4 W/m2 of solar energy has absorbed into the Arctic ocean over that period. When these figures are averaged over the globe, the impact of this Arctic darkening had an impact on global warming about 25% as large as that caused by CO2 emissions, which governments around the world are only now finally starting to target.




  1. How about arguing that 2013’s expansion in Arctic icepack over 2012 was bigger than the US State of California? Or that like everything else in our ever changing biosphere, the albedo is continually going either up or down and has done so for 5 billion years before 1979? A little knowledge is worse than none, so quoting only 33 years of data or any of the incomplete and contradictory AGW arguments as the undisputable truth is the scientific version of creationism.

    • That would be a very shallow argument akin to claiming that the Earth is not warming by using a mega La Nina year (1998) as your baseline. It would have been extraordinary if the icepack had not recovered from the record setting depths of the 2012 melt season.
      Where I agree with you is in your comment about a little knowledge being worse than none. You should apply that mantra to your own observations.

      • You’re going to need to be more specific about my shallowness if you’re hoping for a deeper reply. My example of one year’s data wasn’t supposed to carry all arguments before me, merely to highlight that the certainties of this piece are anything but. My primary argument was actually about how the behaviour of jet streams are largely understood, with the recent increase in speed only allowing for one conclusion, something I noticed you failed to mention at all. If you’d like to talk more in-depth about this or other subjects I’d be happy to do so.

      • You’re not wrong about 1 year’s worth data being something that shouldn’t be taken with any sense of certainty, something that can also be said for a 33 year period out of Earth’s climate history which was what I was trying to highlight. Any discussion about polar ice though shouldn’t take place without mentioning the Antarctic, a pole which is far more resilient to warming due to the landmass anchoring it which was nine times the Arctic’s size during September 2012’s low point. If you’d like a more in-depth discussion about these matters I’d be happy to oblige, given how your reply had the rare quality of no political dogma being attached to it.

  2. EntryLevelScientist on

    …energy absorbed into the arctic ocean… averaged over the globe… If energy was averaged over the globe then we wouldn’t have an arctic would we, because the globe would be homogenous.
    There is some simple science here (white ice reflects more light than dark blue ocean), and the rest just goes downhill

    • That’s the typical sort of response from someone who has turned denial into a religion…. Look at the evidence, coolly and dispassionately, then you might find a more rational and informed view.