Scientists from the US space agency say satellite images show the ice cap continuing to shrink.

"It is happening now - we cannot afford to wait a long period of time for technological solutions," David Rind of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies said in New York on Thursday.

"Change is in the air - literally."

The part of the Arctic Ocean that remains frozen all year round reduced in size at a rate of 10% a decade since 1980, NASA researcher Josefino Comiso said.

That cap reached record lows in 2002 and 2003, he said.

NASA Researchers are worried because global warming speeds up as the ice cap melts, forming a vicious cycle.

"Snow and sea-ice are highly reflective because they are white,"  said Comiso. "Most of the sun's energy is simply reflected back to space.

"Retraction of the ice cover means that la smaller surface area is covered by this highly reflective snow and sea ice, and so more energy is absorbed and the climate warms."

US and Canadian scientists reported in September that the largest ice shelf in the Arctic off Canada's coast had broken up due to climate change and could endanger shipping and drilling platforms in the Beaufort Sea.

The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf has been in place on the north coast of Ellesmere Island in Canada's Nunavut territory for at least 3,000 years.

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