William Chapman of the University of Illinois' Department of Atmospheric Sciences' Polar Research Group has just issued a report on the new historic northern hemisphere sea ice minimum:
Today the Northern Hemisphere sea ice area broke the record for the lowest ice area in recorded history. The new record came a full month before the historic summer minimum typically occurs. There is still a month or more of melt likely this year. It is therefore almost certain that the previous 2005 record will be annihilated by the final 2007 annual minima closer to the end of this summer. In previous record sea ice minima years, ice area anomalies were confined to certain sectors (N. Atlantic, Beaufort/Bering Sea, etc.). The character of 2007's sea ice melt is unique in that it is dramatic and covers the entire Arctic sector. Atlantic, Pacific and even the central Arctic sectors are showing large negative sea ice area anomalies.
So, what does this mean? According to the climate scientists at Realclimate.org (highly recommend this site):
A few people have already remarked on some pretty surprising numbers in Arctic sea ice extent this year (the New York Times has also noticed). The minimum extent is usually in early to mid September, but this year, conditions by Aug 9 had already beaten all previous record minima. Given that there is at least a few more weeks of melting to go, it looks like the record set in 2005 will be unequivocally surpassed.
There's no other way to describe this than the New York Times article title: "Analysts See 'Simply Incredible'Shrinking of Floating Ice in the Arctic." The scientists are redoing their models to account for the increase in shrinkage, but this picture and then this picture should make the problem clear.
Here's the link to the NY Times article.