Unlike previous record years, this year both North-west & East-west passage have opened at the same time. An event which probably hasn't occured the last 125.000 years.
2007 was regarded as truly exceptional with artic ice reaching record low levels that weren't expected before the mid of the century. The discrepancy was so big, and not wanting to jump to conclusion too early, many scientists considered this a one time effect, caused by combining a number of coïncidential factors, like heavy winds.
This year, there was a rather cold winter, so a certain recovery of arctic ice was expected, but for most of that ice was relatively thin ice that does melt easier too. This probably being the reason why this years extent of sea ice again has become so low it is still competing with 2007 for the record.
Earlier this month, Researchers from the University of Alberta released the news that in their research of the thinkness of Arctic ice during the last six years has thinned up 53%
Meanwhile, as you could read on the thingsbreak blog i linked to yesterday, Alaskan governor and Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, threatened to start a lawsuit against enlisting the polar bear as an endangered species, declaring :
Climate models that predict continued loss of sea ice, the main habitat of polar bears, during summers are unreliable