The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) says that during June, the Arctic lost a record total of about 1.1 million square miles of ice and was running just below the coverage seen at the same time during the record year of 2007.
The expanse of ice on June 30 was what would normally been expected on July 21, based on the 1979-2000 average.
This was a full three weeks ahead of schedule. Scientists say it is still too early to tell if weather patterns will allow for an all-time record ice melt to occur by its normal peak in September.
The NSIDC said the only part of the Arctic with above average sea ice at the end of June was along the coast of eastern Greenland.
In contrast, the Antarctic sea ice during June was more than 2 percent above average, ranking at the 10th-greatest extent on record since 1979.
Studies have indicated that this trend in the southern winter is due to changing weather patterns influenced by the ozone hole in the stratosphere above Antarctica.