Forecasting the Condition of Arctic Sea Ice

on Weekly to Seasonal Time Scales

A Collaborative Project between the

National Ice Center and the Polar Science Center


Ignatius G. Rigor 1,2, Magda Hanna3, Pablo Clemente-Colon3 and John Wood3

1Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Lab, University of Washington (UW)

2NOAA/UW Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO)

3Navy/NOAA National Ice Center



2008 Outlook


††††††††††† The extent of arctic sea ice during summer has declined to near-record minima during the last four summers (Fig. 1). Can we predict future minima?

††††††††††† We plan to answer this question, and improve our operational capability to predict the conditions of Arctic sea ice on weekly to seasonal time scales. The forecasts provided by the National/Naval Ice Center help resources managers, navigators and hunters make better decisions regarding Arctic sea ice.Accurate sea ice information is important to naval operations, and increasing safety of life at sea.




Motivation: Why Forecast Sea Ice Conditions?

††††††††††† Accurate sea ice information (Fig. 2) is important for navigation in the Arctic, and is critical for decreasing shipping costs and increasing safety of life at sea (Fig. 3)



Project Objectives and Methods

††††††††††† Update and improve the National Ice Centerís ability to forecast sea ice using new observations and results from climate research by:


1.) Validating and improving ice growth models using new in situ observations of surface air temperature, ice and ocean temperatures, and ice thickness (Fig. 4) obtained by the International Arctic Buoy Programme (IABP,, and funded by NOAA.


2.) Exploiting the significant lag correlations between surface air temperature (SAT) and sea ice extent with large scale variations in atmospheric circulation (e.g. the Arctic Oscillation (AO, a.k.a. North Atlantic Oscillation, Fig. 5), and the relationship between the age (thickness) of sea ice and summer sea ice extent (Fig. 6) to produce long range forecasts/outlooks of Arctic sea ice conditions.




This project is funded by of the NOAA Transitions of Research Applications to Climate Services (TRACS) program through the NOAA/UW Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO). And by the National Ice Center and Applied Physics Laboratory of the University of Washington.








Figure 2. Sea ice chart analyzed by the National/Naval Ice Center for the Beaufort Sea, Alaska. The standard WMO SIGRID ice egg code is utilized to provide stage of development information. Thickness information is provided in the yellow boxes in centimeters.






Figure 4. Observations from Ice Mass Balance (IMB) buoy 24290 and JAMSTEC Compact Arctic Drifter (JCAD) 7, which were deployed together on the drifting Arctic sea ice. These buoys measure sea level pressure (SLP), surface air temperature (SAT), ice thickness and temperatures, snow depth, and ocean temperatures and salinity. From these measurements, we can also estimate a number of other geophysical quantities such as ocean surface heat flux and heat storage.