Columbia University and the environmental activist group Greenpeace in separate events on Wednesday discussed US government data showing that the Arctic sea ice had contracted to its smallest surface area since record-keeping started in 1979.
Satellite images show that as of 16 September the Arctic ice cap melted to 1.32 million square miles, the predicted lowest point for the year, as per data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
"Between 1979 and 2012, we have a decline of 13 per cent per decade in the sea ice, accelerating from six per cent between 1979 and 2000," said oceanographer Wieslaw Maslowski with the US Naval Postgraduate School, speaking at the Greenpeace event.
"If this trend continues we will not have sea ice by the end of this decade," said Maslowski.
While the figures are worse than the early estimates, scientists are not surprised, according to NASA climate expert James Hansen, who also spoke at the Greenpeace event.
"We are in a planetary emergency," said Hansen, decrying "the gap between what is understood by scientific community and what is known by the public."