An Innovative Network to Improve Sea Ice Prediction in a Changing Arctic

This project is funded by NSF, ONR, NASA, DoE, and NOAA


  1. Coordinate and evaluate activities to predict sea ice
  2. Integrate, assess and guide observations
  3. Synthesize predictions and observations
  4. Disseminate predictions and engage key stakeholders


Julienne Stroeve (NSIDC), Cecilia Bitz (University of Washington), Edward Blanchard Wrigglesworth (University of Washington), Walt Meier (NASA), Jim Overland (NOAA), Muyin Wang (University of Washington), Hajo Eicken (University of Alaska Fairbanks), Jenny Hutchings (University of Alaska Fairbanks), Larry Hamilton (University of New Hampshire), Helen Wiggins (Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S.), Adrienne Tivy (International Arctic Research Center), Philip Jones (Los Alamos National Laboratory), and Elizabeth Hunke (Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Project Summary

Recent major changes in the extent, thickness and properties of Arctic sea ice have captured attention and posed significant challenges to a diverse group of stakeholders, ranging from maritime safety and security, resource management and development, politicians, coastal communities, weather and climate forecasters, climate change researchers, and a growing segment of the general public. Sea ice forecasting on interannual and seasonal time scales, especially over the summer and into fall, is of particular interest. Though each stakeholder is driven by different priorities, all require improved monitoring, prediction, and communication of sea ice conditions. To date, sea ice modeling efforts have largely focused on climate scales (i.e., response to greenhouse gas forcing) or targeted synoptic forecasting in support of navigation. Sea ice forecasting on seasonal scales is a challenge because of: (1) high variability in atmospheric and oceanic influence, (2) observations for initialization and validation have limited coverage and/or high uncertainties, (3) current model capabilities are limited, (4) inherent limitations in sea ice predictability, and (5) an Arctic system changing in ways without recent historical precedent.

The SEARCH Sea Ice Outlook was implemented four years ago in an ad hoc fashion, requesting voluntary contributions to estimate September sea ice extent based on late spring (June 1) conditions. Contributions have been made using different methods that vary from complex (partially- and fully-coupled general circulation models and statistical relationships) to basic (linear trend extrapolation, heuristic, public poll). We propose to organize and expand the Outlook into a more structured, coordinated and formal effort that focuses on tackling key barriers to sea ice forecasting, including rigorous evaluation of predictions, coordination and organization of relevant observations for initialization, evaluation of methods, and finally, an organizational network structure to manage the efforts and communicate results in new ways. This proposal builds on the experience of the past four years and expands on structures already in place, leveraging resources and expertise at an international scale to help address a set of challenges recognized as priorities by a range of U.S. and international programs and organizations.

Related Resources

ARCUS Sea Ice Prediction Network Web site

NSIDC Sea Ice Prediction Network Web site

Contact NSIDC User Services for more information.