Satellite data has revealed sea ice around Antarctica has dropped to historically low levels, triggering fresh warnings from scientists.
The dramatic fall was described as "mind-blowing" by one expert from the US-based National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSDIC), the BBC reports.
The concerning trend has far-reaching consequences for the entire Earth, scientists say.
The frozen continent's vast expanse of surface ice acts as a temperature regulator for the planet by reflecting the Sun's energy back to the atmosphere while cooling the ocean below it.
But the latest data shows sea ice around Antarctica now covers less than 17 million square kilometres, a shocking drop of 1.5 million square kilometres on the September average.
That is an area of vanishing ice roughly equivalent to the size of the Northern Territory.
"It's so far outside anything we've seen, it's almost mind-blowing," said Walter Meier, a scientist at the NSDIC.
Scientists are studying the factors behind this year's low sea ice, but are concerned it will not recover by a significant level.
Sea-ice is composed during the southern hemisphere winter and provides a protective casing for the ice covering the land and stops the sea from heating up.
With more disappearing sea ice, the level of sunlight absorbed by the ocean increases, causing more heat energy in the water.
This in turn melts more ice.
Scientist are concerned Antarctica is turning from a heat regulator for Earth to instead becoming a radiator.