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Sea Ice Outlook 2008: Summary Report

Release Date: 
30 September 2008

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2008 Sea Ice Minimum Announcement Flyer2008 Sea Ice Minimum Announcement Flyer

The Summary Report provides an initial retrospective review of the 2008 Sea Ice Outlook. The report is based on statements from contributors to the 2008 Sea Ice Outlook, and discusses preliminary analyses of the causes of the 2008 minimum, the accuracy of the Outlook values, and implications for future Outlook efforts. Key highlights from the full Summary Report are available below.

Summer 2008 Sea Ice and Meteorological Conditions

The 2008 arctic summer sea ice extent minimum nearly matched the drastic reduction in minimum extent observed in 2007. September 2008 sea ice extent was driven by pre-existing conditions at the end of spring, as well as variable wind patterns over the summer.

How Well Did the Outlook Projections Compare to September Observations?

There was good agreement between outlook projections and observations. The median projected September ice extent from the July Outlook monthly report was 4.9 million square kilometers; the observed value was 4.7 million square kilometers. The 2008 Sea Ice Outlook provided a successful forum for community synthesis and an important first step toward better understanding arctic sea ice loss.

Some Implications for the Future of Arctic Sea Ice Based on the 2008 Outlook

Information about future summer arctic sea ice conditions based on 2008 data is inconclusive. Preliminary interpretation of data and models suggest, however, that we may remain near current conditions until another warm year causes rapid sea ice loss.

Lessons Learned from the 2008 Outlook

A central lesson learned from the 2008 Outlook was that the condition of sea ice in late spring was the major driver of the 2008 sea ice minimum. The Outlook also underscored important lessons for improvements in future efforts, including: a need for additional work on remote sensing of spring and summer sea ice conditions; sea ice thickness data; and more formal forecasting and evaluation methods.

Upcoming Activities

A series of follow-up activities are planned for this fall and winter in order to complete a thorough retrospective analysis of the 2008 season and to plan for a 2009 Sea Ice Outlook effort. The final retrospective report will be completed in early 2009.