GI Scientist: Arctic sea ice needs better forecasts

Release Date: 
Friday, June 7, 2013

Scientist: Arctic sea ice needs better forecasts


CONTACT: Amy Hartley, GI information officer, 907-474-5823,


Fairbanks, Alaska—With climate change causing the arctic ice pack to melt, more and more northern waters are opening up to shipping each summer. Sea ice in the region is a major hazard, warns Hajo Eicken, a geophysicist and sea ice expert at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. According to Eicken, better forecasts are urgently needed and will require a new network to manage and distribute sea ice data. Eicken’s ideas were published in a Comment piece in Nature.

As the planet warms, sea ice is becoming more variable and mobile. Tracking changing ice is difficult: Surface meltwater can confuse satellites and freezing in coastal waters can take days to be recognized in low-resolution images from space. Local knowledge is needed and is being supplied by academic experts, governments, industry and citizen scientists from indigenous communities. But arctic observations are not being coordinated or disseminated widely. And various users have different requirements from the forecasts, which are not currently being met.

Eicken calls for a new network of all arctic stakeholders to decide which sea ice variables need to be monitored to satisfy everyone’s needs, implement programs to do so and then share the data and usable products openly. You can access the Eicken’s Comment piece at

Nature is a leading weekly, international scientific journal that was founded in 1869.

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ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Hajo Eicken, UAF professor of geophysics, via email at