Since satellite measurements began thirty years ago, arctic ice cover has decreased by about a third, with a rapid decline setting in after 2002.
Mark Serreze, a scientist with the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University, told the Guardian that he was 'amazed':
'If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lost all of its ice, then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our childrens' lifetimes,' he said.
The lowest recorded figure before this year for sea ice cover was 5.3 million square kilometres. This year, the cover has receded to a mere 4.4 million square kilometres.
Although changes in wind and ocean currents have helped the decline, Dr Serreze said that anthropogenic global warming was the main culprit.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist September 2007