UCL Earth Sciences

Seasonal Arctic summer ice extent still hard to forecast.

31 March 2014

2014-02-31-stroeve

A new study lead by Prof Julienne Stroeve says year-to-year forecasts of the Arctic’s summer ice extent are not yet reliable.

Will next year’s summer Arctic ice extent be high or low? Can ship captains plan on navigating the famed Northwest Passage—a direct shipping route from Europe to Asia across the Arctic Ocean—to save on time and fuel?

Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), UCL, University of New Hampshire and University of Washington analysed 300 summer Arctic sea ice forecasts from 2008 to 2013 and found that forecasts are quite accurate when sea ice conditions are close to the downward trend that has been observed in Arctic sea ice for the last 30 years. However, forecasts are not so accurate when sea ice conditions are unusually higher or lower compared to this trend.

Image Caption: An image of an area of the Arctic sea ice pack well north of Alaska, captured by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite on Sept. 13, 2013, the day before the National Snow and Ice Data Center estimated Arctic sea ice to have reached its minimum extent for the year. A cloud front can be seen in the lower left, and dark areas indicate regions of open water between sea ice formations.Credit: NASA

Full story: Seasonal Arctic summer ice extent still hard to forecast, study says.

Publication:  "Predicting September Sea Ice Ensemble Skill of the Search Sea Ice Outlook 2008–2013", Journal Geophysical Research Letters.