Satellite data show that during each of the past six summers, sea ice cover has shrunk to its smallest level in three decades. The composition of the ice is also changing, now containing a higher fraction of thin first-year ice instead of thicker multi-year ice. Accurately projecting future sea ice conditions is important to a growing number of stakeholders, including local populations, natural resource industries, fishing communities, commercial shippers, marine tourism operators, national security organizations, regulatory agencies, and the scientific research community.
However, a new report finds that gaps in understanding the interactions between Arctic sea ice, oceans, and the atmosphere is hampering accurate predictions. Although modeling has steadily improved, projections by every major modeling group failed to predict the record breaking drop in summer sea ice extent in September 2012. The report identifies some specific strategies to improve projections. It also concludes that establishing sustained communication between the user, modeling, and observation communities could help reveal gaps in understanding and ensure that resources are allocated to address the most pressing sea ice data needs.