WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Sea Ice -- It's Not All Bad News

Posted September 17, 2008

The National Snow and Ice Data Center has released a bulletin showing that the sea ice coverage in the Arctic is actually up from this time last year.  We're at the end of the summer melting season, and the extent -- the amount of area covered by sea ice -- is up 9% over the end of last year's summer melt.

In spite of the apparent improvement, the NSIDC warns that "this season further reinforces the long-term downward trend of sea ice extent."  As you can see from the graph, 2008's extent is still well below the longtime average, but as my colleague David Aldrich notes in his blog, they've only been tracking this since 1979. Some history is, of course, better than no history; however, In terms of geological time, that is not a lot of time at all.

As an interesting aside, consider this: What would you think of this news if you owned a global, over-the-water shipping company?  Most folks believe that a decline in Arctic sea ice is bad, but if the Arctic isn't covered in sea ice, new and much shorter shipping lanes become open.  I'm not saying I'm in favor of a decline in sea ice, of course -- but it's worth keeping in mind that with anything, even bad news is good news for someone.


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  • nsj Sep 17, 2008


    I'm definitely not saying that this is *good* news, by any stretch. It's just not *as bad* as last year. That, and there are certain sectors that don't consider a melting polar ice cap as "all bad."

  • nothanks99 Sep 17, 2008

    This post is a little misleading. If you go to their website, the headline is "Arctic sea ice settles at second-lowest, underscores accelerating decline". In other words, they say it's pretty bad news because it's the 2nd lowest recorded (2007 was lowest) - since 1979 as you point out. They also note that this summer was cooler than last year's (but not by how much).