Mar 31

As the Arctic melts, new technologies predict where sea ice will be

At this time of the year, when Arctic sea ice hits its lowest extent for the season, scientists are turning to 40 years of satellite data to determine if 2018 is a year for the history books. Already, sea ice extent was at a record low for February, and it’s been the warmest winter on record so far.Increasingly, however, as global warming rapidly changes daily life in the Arctic, governments and scientists are placing a greater priority on using new technologies to make better predictions of seasonal sea ice, not just analyzing the past. “We want more regional, fine-resolution information of where the sea ice might be,” said Helen Wiggins, program director for the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, which oversees the Sea Ice Prediction Network.In January, scientists, government officials and industry representatives from around the world met in Tromso, Norway, to discuss improving sea ice forecasting in the Arctic. The region’s waterways are increasingly open for business, with ships embarking earlier and returning later in summer, and researchers want to understand exactly how northern communities and industries use current sea ice predictions and charts to plan their operations and reduce economic and safety risks. This activity is only expected to increase in the coming years, as the European Arctic, the Northwest Passage and some areas in the Northern Sea Route experience less and less summer sea ice.

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