2009 SEARCH Sea Ice Outlook Effort Underway

The Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) Sea Ice Outlook (SIO), which provides an integrated, community-wide summary of projections of the annual arctic sea ice minimum, has launched activities for the 2009 season. Contributions are currently being accepted, and the first monthly report will be released in early June, with subsequent reports each month through September 2009.

NSIDC image derived from satellite passive microwave data.

More than 20 research groups, including scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), contributed to the 2008 Sea Ice Outlook (SIO) by providing information on current and expected states of arctic sea ice over the summer season. This NSIDC image, derived from satellite passive microwave data, depicts the April 2009 average percentage of ice cover for areas that were more than 15% covered by ice. Note that the black cross indicates the geographic North Pole and that the satellite does not image a circular sector over this area due to orbit inclination. Figure credit: NSIDC.

The SIO effort, which began in 2008 in response to the drastic and unexpected record sea ice minimum of 2007, provides a means to synthesize and communicate community outlooks for the annual sea ice minimum. The SIO is based on an open and inclusive process—more than 20 research groups contributed in 2008—by providing information on current and expected states of the arctic sea ice. A 2008 retrospective report concluded that the SIO showed good agreement between outlook projections and observations, served as a successful forum and model for community synthesis, and was an important initial step toward better understanding arctic sea ice loss. A central lesson learned from the 2008 SIO was that the condition of sea ice in late spring was a major driver of the 2008 sea ice minimum.

A workshop to further evaluate the SIO effort and plan for the upcoming season was recently held in Boulder, Colorado. Participants at this March 2009 meeting discussed lessons learned from 2008 and made several recommendations for improvements to the 2009 Outlook. The presentations from this workshop are available on the meeting website. The resulting workshop report, which will be circulated as a draft for community and public input, includes recommendations for the 2009 Outlook on scientific goals, content, and format and will be available as a PDF file on the SIO website in June 2009.

For more information or to contribute to the SIO, go to SIO website, or contact Helen Wiggins at ARCUS (helen [at] arcus [dot] org), James Overland at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (james [dot] e [dot] overland [at] noaa [dot] gov), or Hajo Eicken at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (hajo [dot] eicken [at] gi [dot] alaska [dot] edu).