But the end result is likely the same: an Arctic free of ice sooner than later, poor prospects for the survival of polar bears and rising ocean levels around the globe.
Researchers from the University of Colorado tested the sea in the Gulf Stream between Greenland and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard and found the temperature was about 6 degrees C in recent summers.
Since ocean temperature data only goes back about 150 years, the scientists had to drill into sediment on the ocean floor to examine plankton-like organisms and analyze their chemical composition. Using that data, they were able to determine past water temperatures.
In Roman times the temperature in Arctic waters was on average 3.4 C, but that has now risen to 5.2 C, with some summer temperatures climbing to 6 C.
And, it appears it's having some effect. The university's national snow and ice data centre found the Arctic ice surface shrank to its lowest level on record in 2009 - between 1979 and 2009 it lost an ice area the size of Alaska.
University researcher Thomas Marchitto said in the Daily Mail the study doesn't prove the change is caused by human activity, but it does "strongly point toward this being an unusual event."
"Warmer waters could lead to major sea ice loss and drastic changes for the Arctic," he said. "On a scale of 2,000 years, it stands out dramatically as something that does not look natural."
Perhaps, the research is more evidence that global warming is real, even though in some countries, such as England, the theory has growing numbers of doubters.