Photo: A fishing boat cruises in the Ilulissat fjord, off Greenland's western coast, in 2004.
Sea ice in the northern hemisphere has plunged to the lowest levels ever measured, US polar specialists said, adding they expect the record low to be "annihilated" by summer's end.
In data posted on the Internet Thursday, William Chapman and colleagues at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana said that sea ice in the Arctic region had plunged to new lows some 30 days before the normal point of the annual lows.
"Today, the Northern Hemisphere sea ice area broke the record for the lowest recorded ice area in recorded history," Chapman, a researcher on Arctic meteorology of the university's Department of Atmospheric Sciences, wrote Thursday in the online publication 'The Cryosphere Today.'
"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."
The drop in sea ice this year is more geographically sweeping than in previous low years, the scientists said.
In earlier low years, big drops in the level of sea ice were confined to specific areas, such as the North Atlantic, the Bering Sea, the Beaufort Sea, or other locales.
"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," they said.
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