New Model Allows Scientists to Make Better Seasonal Arctic Sea Ice Forecasts
27.09.2011 - Water & Oceans, Ice & Snow, Arctic
A study published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that while accurate predictions for the extent of Arctic sea ice can be derived from the conditions of the previous autumn, longer-term predictions require a better understanding of the impact of climate trends on the sea ice. Current conditions may be an important key to understanding the ice's response to the weather, but in the long run, climate trends become the main influence on sea ice conditions.
For their study, the scientists from the University of Washington relied on the Community Climate System Model version 4, one of the few models to have accurately simulated the rate of Arctic sea ice decline. The team found that the ice thickness and extent measurements made in September can help determine the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice the following summer.
Yet while determining the area is easy for satellites, sea ice thickness estimates only go back 10 years. Therefore, in an effort to assess the model's accuracy, the scientists need in-field measurements. With a positive result, they conclude that the predictive results from the model will translate into the real world.
Although current sea ice conditions are important in forecasting future sea ice conditions in the Arctic, they do not lead to forecasts for the coming decades. Many scientists believe the Arctic could be completely free of sea ice in summer by the middle of this century. Based on the model's results using projections for increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, the University of Washington team believes “the planet will follow the model fairly closely if the forcing conditions evolve as they are predicted to," according to Edward Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, a doctoral student in atmospheric sciences.