Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is likely to shrink to a record small size sometime next week, and then keep on melting, a scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said on Monday.
"A new daily record ... would be likely by the end of August," said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the data center, which monitors ice in the Arctic and elsewhere. "Chances are it will cross the previous record while we're still in sea ice retreat."
The amount of sea ice in the Arctic is important because this region is a potent global weather-maker, sometimes characterized as the world's air conditioner. This year, the loss of sea ice in the Arctic has suggested a possible opening of the Northwest Passage north of Canada and Alaska and the Northern Sea Route by Europe and Siberia.
As parts of the Arctic melted, 2012 also set records for heat and drought in much of the Northern Hemisphere temperate zone, especially the continental United States.
This summer could see the ice retreat to less than 1.5 million square miles (4 million square km), an unprecedented low, Scambos said.