The arctic sea ice extent fell to 1.58 million square miles Sunday, 27,000 square miles below the record low daily sea ice coverage set Sept. 18, 2007, scientists at the center located at the University of Colorado at Boulder reported.
The arctic sea ice minimum normally does not occur until the melt season ends in mid- to late September, researchers said, saying they expect the sea ice to continue to dwindle for the next two or three weeks.
"It's a little surprising to see the 2012 arctic sea ice extent in August dip below the record low 2007 sea ice extent in September," center scientist Walt Meier said. "It's likely we are going to surpass the record decline by a fair amount this year by the time all is said and done."
The decline seen in recent years is well outside the range of natural climate variability, he said.
Most scientists say they believe the shrinking arctic sea ice is linked to warming temperatures caused by an increase in human-produced greenhouse gases emitted into the Earth's atmosphere.