Researchers forecast 1 in 3 chance of record low sea ice in 2007

April 19, 2007

University of Colorado at Boulder researchers are forecasting a one in three chance that the 2007 minimum extent of sea ice across the Arctic region will set an all-time record low.

The researchers at CU-Boulder's Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research also say there is a 57 percent chance the 2007 sea-ice minimum will be lower than the 2006 minimum of 2.27 million square miles, now the second lowest on record. There is a 70 percent chance the 2007 sea-ice minimum will rank within the lowest five years on record, according to Research Associate Sheldon Drobot of CCAR's Arctic Regional Ice Forecasting System group in CU-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department.

Sea-ice extent is the area of an ocean covered by at least 15 percent ice. Declining sea ice in the Arctic is believed by researchers to be caused by higher winter temperatures due to greenhouse warming, said Drobot. Arctic sea ice has been declining since the late 1970s.

Researchers pay particular attention to September and March because they generally mark the annual minimum and maximum sea-ice extents respectively, said Drobot. On April 4, researchers from CU-Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center reported the maximum extent of this year's March Arctic sea ice, 5.7 million square miles, was the second-lowest maximum on satellite record.

While regional sea ice declines were sharpest in the western Arctic over the past few years, large declines also occurred last year in much of the eastern Arctic, according to Drobot. Such regional variation is of interest to the maritime industry, including government agencies, international shipping companies, energy exploration corporations and tourism cruise lines active in the far North, he said.

"The practical offshoot here is that people operating ships in Arctic waters can use these forecasts to try to plan activities several months in advance," said Drobot. The sea ice research by the CCAR group -- the only research group in the world currently making seasonal Arctic sea ice forecasts based on probability -- is funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA, he said.

The CCAR researchers used satellite data from the U.S. Department of Defense and temperature records from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the forecasts, which they have been producing for five years, said Drobot. Updated forecasts will be provided throughout the spring and summer, he said.

Source: University of Colorado at Boulder

Explore further: Sea ice plays a pivotal role in the Arctic methane cycle

Related Stories

Sea ice plays a pivotal role in the Arctic methane cycle

November 13, 2015

The ice-covered Arctic Ocean is a more important factor concerning the concentration of the greenhouse gas methane in the atmosphere than previously assumed. Experts from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for ...

Seven case studies in carbon and climate

November 13, 2015

Every part of the mosaic of Earth's surface—ocean and land, Arctic and tropics, forest and grassland—absorbs and releases carbon in a different way. Wild-card events such as massive wildfires and drought complicate the ...

Less ice, more water in Arctic Ocean by 2050s

November 2, 2015

By the 2050s, parts of the Arctic Ocean once covered by sea ice much of the year will see at least 60 days a year of open water, according to a new modeling study led by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Plastic litter taints the sea surface, even in the Arctic

October 22, 2015

In a new study, researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) show for the first time that marine litter can even be found at the sea surface of Arctic waters. Though ...

Nordic seas cooled 500,000 years before global oceans

October 28, 2015

The cooling of the Nordic Seas towards modern temperatures started in the early Pliocene, half a million years before the global oceans cooled. A new study of fossil marine plankton published in Nature Communications today ...

Recommended for you

Don't forget plankton in climate change models, says study

November 26, 2015

A new study from the University of Exeter, published in the journal Ecology Letters, found that phytoplankton - microscopic water-borne plants - can rapidly evolve tolerance to elevated water temperatures. Globally, phytoplankton ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.