It’s always a challenge to predict each year how much Arctic sea ice coverage might change with the seasons. Now we have a new tool to make the summer forecast for sea ice minimums just a little bit better. NASA scientists can make a reasonable estimate of September’s sea ice extent as early as this March, with the predictions getting more reliable everyday. This new forecasting model uses real-time NASA satellite data of Arctic sea ice melt, so the predictions improve through late spring and early summer as they incorporate more information about the state of sea ice melt and distribution of open water across the Arctic Ocean. Although most forecast models focus on predicting the extent of sea ice across the entire Arctic, this model also produces reliable forecasts of sea ice in specific regions, like the seas north of Alaska, crucial information for people living in and moving through the region. Arctic sea ice plays an important role in regulating the planet’s climate, so predictions of sea ice extent can help us better understand how global temperatures might change.
Scientists can continue to train the model based on historical observations. In just a few weeks, the model will begin producing forecasts of Arctic sea ice extent for the coming September and will continue making improvements, as the annual sea ice minimum extent gets closer. .