Second biggest Arctic sea ice thaw since records began

Press release - September 16, 2011
Auckland 16 September 2011: This summer’s Arctic sea ice melt has been confirmed overnight (NZ time) as having been the second largest in recorded history, following 2007’s record melt (1).

Responding to the announcement by the US-based National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSDIC), Frida Bengtsson, expedition leader onboard the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise, at 80 degrees north said, “This is a clear signal of how climate change is causing the rapid shrinking of the Arctic sea ice cap”.

She continued, “It not only has grave implications for the polar bears and other wildlife that depend on the sea ice, but for the planet as a whole - an Arctic free of summer sea ice could destabilise global weather patterns.”

Till Wagner, ice scientist from University of Cambridge’s Polar Ocean Physics Group, (2) speaking from the Arctic Sunrise said, "What we can see is a staggering retreat in the ice. The speed and the scale at which the sea ice is diminishing cannot be explained by extreme weather conditions or similar theories. It is a direct consequence of global rising temperatures that lead to the heating up of the air and of the oceans.”

Responding to the news Greenpeace NZ Senior Climate Campaigner Simon Boxer said, “This dramatic thaw sends a clear message to the New Zealand government that the setting up of new frontiers in extreme oil, Solid Energy’s preparations to dig up six billion tonnes of lignite in Southland, and Fonterra’s ongoing use of palm kernel, have all got to stop”.

The Greenpeace icebreaker vessel the Arctic Sunrise is currently in the Arctic Ocean, with scientists from the University of Cambridge’s Polar Ocean Physics Group, who are conducting research into the thickness and volume of the sea ice.


Moving and still images of the Arctic research work, and of the recreation of da Vinci’s sketch The Vitruvian Man,  created  last week on the ice by artist John Quigley, are available by calling Jay Harkness, Greenpeace NZ media and Communications, on 021 495 216.

Greenpeace NZ Senior Climate Campaigner Simon Boxer is available for interviews on 021 905 579.


(2) Ice scientists Till Wagner and Nick Toberg from Professor Peter Wadhams’ team at the University of Cambridge are testing the sea ice until September 24 2011. In an Arctic first, the scientists are working with professional 3D laser scanners from The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London to investigate systematically the thickness and volume of the rapidly shrinking sea ice. In addition to the scanners, they are using power drills, coring, aerial imagery, snow depth measurements and GPS readings, to establish the average thickness, and other properties of the sea ice at 10 different sites. The data they collect will be used to verify other information from satellites and improve the accuracy of computer models.