Big picture: global warming
Annual context: relatively "cold" year, solar minimum (no sunspots in 2 years) , La Niña.
Arctic ice: NW Passage opened in 2007, ice decline initially less fast this year (like 2005, second fastest decline) but now much faster approaching the levels of 2007.
Source: Arctic ice is at tipping point (BBC).
Conclusion: even in expectedly "cold" years the Arctic ice is in danger, with all the implications it has as both example of what is going on in other areas and as global cooling element not anymore so active. I don not really want to think in what will happen as soon as La Niña is gone and the Sun recovers its freckles, causing the yearly climated to warm up even more.
Sincerely, I am not ready for a major climatic swift in few decades and I do not think anybody on Earth is. I am scared.
My apologies for writing this way. No coffee= lazy neurones.
Update: more of the same at Science Daily today (aug 29): Arctic Ice On The Verge Of Another All-time Low. In fact the NW Passage has been open for some time again this year already (second time in history):
The Amudsend route (dotted line) is open in 2008, as was in 2007.