The extent of sea ice in the Arctic has already hit a record low this season, the gloomiest, if not doomiest, since satellite records began in the 1970s. The world will likely have to wait a month or so for the final numbers to be released since sea ice typically stops melting by the end of September, but researchers are already worried by the extra 380,000 square miles or so of sea ice that’s melted this year beyond the record set in 2005. “I’m shocked daily, looking at the maps,” said Marika Holland, sea-ice researcher at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, earlier this month. “Where it’s going to bottom out, I wouldn’t hazard a guess.” And much of the ice that’s left is roughly half as thick as it was in 2001, according to a recent German study. If that’s not enough, the European Space Agency has said that Arctic melting this year has also entirely opened up the fabled Northwest Passage, a shipping shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that has until now been “historically impassable.” So, um, kayaking anyone?

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.