In your editorial Walking on thin ice (News Sept. 14), you note that “Arctic sea ice cover melted to its lowest since 1979 last month.”
While true, this lone data point fails to convey the magnitude or rapidity of the disappearance of the Arctic’s sea ice. The year 1979 is simply the date when comprehensive satellite observations began, not an otherwise remarkable year. By contrast, studies such as Kinnard et al. (2011) conclude that the warming and sea ice retreat of the last few decades are “unprecedented” as far back as data can be (for now) reliably determined – almost one-and-a-half millennia.
In recent years, summer sea ice has shrunk to a shadow of what it was throughout the history of modern civilization. The current record low volume is just 25 per cent of the amount which persisted into the 1980s — a loss of some 10 trillion cubic metres of ice.
Remember the old TV special in which Frosty the Snowman had to live at the North Pole each summer because only there could he avoid melting? That was always a magical fantasy; now we’re making it impossible too.