Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Arctic Sea Ice in Steep Decline


For years now prominent scientists have warned of the dangers of global warming and a concomitant tipping point for the Arctic. Because of abnormal heat, things are not looking good. Arctic sea ice is in a vertical free-fall. But, the melt season only just started!

This makes Obama’s call for regulation of coal-burning power plants look like a fanciful ephemeral wish list, too little, too late.

Do not expect to see this story on the nightly news. This news story comes by way of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) obtained whilst comparing images of sea ice concentration on May 14, 2014 to June 2, 2014.

Confirmation of the NRL images comes from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC – Boulder) reporting that ice concentration values plummeted by more than 286,000 square kilometers, an area the size of the state of Nevada (286,351 sq km), which alarmingly disappeared over a period of a day, not weeks or months, leaving glaciologists flat-footed and startled.

One can only hope and pray this is not an omen for the entire melt season. At that rate, there’s not enough ice to hold on for very long.

What’s up?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports huge sea surface temperature anomalies all over the Northern Hemisphere. Some anomalies range up to 8 C around the Arctic Ocean. That’s a lot for the Arctic!

As for the planet in toto, NOAA says that the combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for April 2014 tied with April 2010 as the highest on record for the month, which is the most recent data available.

And, in confirmation of those readings, according to Arctic News: “Above sea surface anomalies are very high, much higher than historic annual temperature anomalies over land and oceans….” (Source: Arctic Sea Ice in Steep Decline, Arctic News, June 3, 2014.)

As an aside (actually, a denunciation): Where’s the “cooling crowd” when you really need’em? Well, several of them are in the hallowed halls (cough, cough) of Congress scheming for ways to discredit Obama’s EPA broadside of the nation’s coal-burning industry.

Furthermore, now that Earth is reaching its maximum axial tilt towards the sun during the months of June and July its insolation, i.e., solar radiation, is higher in the Arctic than anywhere else on Earth.

And, as bad luck would have it, according to a GFS Model Temperature Forecast by the University of Maine, a high melt rate is likely going forward. As such, here is a quote: “It should go without saying that a 70 degree reading in early June on the shores of the East Siberian Sea in the high Arctic is a clear sign of human-caused climate change gone nuts. And we are likely to see these and higher readings as spring proceeds into summer.”

Jeez, summer just started!

The Risks

The fear amongst many professionals, like the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (see:, is that an ice-free Arctic will open the door for massive release of methane from hydrates embedded within the ice, leading to runaway global warming. That is a lights-out scenario of some kind, but nobody really knows for certain how it will happen and when and how badly.

Also, weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere will continue to turn ugly because of Arctic warmth disrupting the jet streams, which, in turn, disrupts agriculture with embedded droughts and torrential storms. This is already a shopworn story.

Here is a quote from AMEG’s web site: “If methane release from Arctic sea floor hydrates happens on a large scale — and reports suggest that it will — then this situation can start an uncontrollable sequence of events that would make world agriculture and civilization unsustainable. It is a responsible alarm, not alarmist, to say that it is a real threat to the survival of humanity and most life on Earth.”

The risks, according to Arctic News: “Temperature rises of the water close to the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean are very dangerous, as heat penetrating sediments there could cause hydrate destabilization, resulting in huge amounts of methane entering the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean.”

What to Do?

AMEG suggest geoengineering techniques to cool the Arctic. This requires a lot of research and testing and considerable governmental support. But, nobody has ever done it. And, there is considerable skepticism about the effects geoengineering may have on Mother Nature à la the Frankenstein climate syndrome, but nobody really knows for sure. It’s virgin science, not tested.

There are no easy answers to a prospective melt down of the Arctic, but it is fair to say that governments around the world will get involved once a crisis is declared. However, it is well beyond the scope of this article to know how that plays out.

Nevertheless, it is also fair to say that the U.S. has missed the mark big time on the issue of global warming. As the purported leader of the Free World, U.S. leadership on this one issue, which spans the globe, has been pitiful and ignorant. And, that may be understated.

After all, attempting to control the human-caused risks of runaway global warming is the one political issue where it is impossible to error on the side of enthusiasm.

Still, there’s a lot of summer ahead. Maybe the Arctic will get hit with a huge cold front.

But, where from?

Postscript: “The minute that the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people that would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012,” Jon Huntsman (R-former governor of Utah and Republican presidential candidate) on ABC News, Aug. 21, 2011.

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future