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CU research indicates polar ice levels hit record low

CU-based stations say evidence supports long-held beliefs about global warming

Rob Ryan

Issue date: 10/9/07 Section: News
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This image compares the average sea ice extent for September 2007 to September 2005; the magenta line indicates the long-term median from 1979 to 2000. September 2007 sea ice extent was 4.28, compared to 5.57 in September 2005. This image is from the NSIDC Sea Ice Index. (Photo Courtesy of NSIDC)
This image compares the average sea ice extent for September 2007 to September 2005; the magenta line indicates the long-term median from 1979 to 2000. September 2007 sea ice extent was 4.28, compared to 5.57 in September 2005. This image is from the NSIDC Sea Ice Index. (Photo Courtesy of NSIDC)

The CU based National Snow and Ice Data Center released a report on Sept. 20 saying that Arctic sea ice levels hit a record low in 2007.

"Over the past 20 years the Arctic has radically changed before our eyes," said Mark Serreze, senior researcher at NSIDC.

The previous record in 2005 was 5.6 million square kilometers and the level in 2007 was 4.3 million, a difference of 1.3 million kilometers and 23 percent.

The NSIDC, a division of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), has been monitoring sea ice levels since the 1970s, but this year sticks out as one of the worst.

"What we're seeing is an exclamation point on a pattern of sea ice loss for the past 30 years," Serreze said. "We're starting to see the effects of greenhouse warming."

CIRES and the NSIDC have long predicted that the Artic would be the place that would show the first acute effects of global warming.

"(We predicted) the Arctic would be the place where greenhouse effects would be seen first and the most pronounced," Serreze said. "Unless we take steps very quickly to reduce greenhouse warming, the levels will continue to drop."

With reports such as these becoming more and more common, the question now turns to what humans can do to stop these changes. CU is making environmental issues a top priority.

"Over the last three years, energy consumption has been reduced 4-5 percent per square foot per year," said Dave Newport, director of the Environmental Center at CU.

CU has already made a significant effort to reduce its carbon emissions, a key element in the process of turning back global warming.

On Feb. 22 Chancellor Bud Peterson signed the American College and University Presidents Action Climate Commitment. Darren Legge, a senior Environmental Studies major, said the plan calls for the CU campus to eventually be carbon neutral, although the date for that goal has not yet been set. Legge works with the Environmental Center's Energy Outreach Program.

The University is also currently spending $500,000 a year on energy efficiency, saving $2-3 million dollars on energy consumption.

Newport said, however, there's still much more work to be done.

"There is always way more we could be doing, and as soon as we figure out what that is, we're going to do it," Newport said.

Contact Campus Press Reporter Rob Ryan at rob.ryan@thecampuspress.com
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