Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Development of seasonal outlooks of Arctic sea ice, and some questions about the broader impacts of the decline of Arctic sea ice
The last four summers have set record minima in Arctic sea ice extent. These minima may be attributed to global warming (e.g. the Arctic Climate Impacts Assessment), but this decline may also be attributed to a change in the wind-driven circulation of Arctic sea ice. In a series of papers, we showed that the prior winter Arctic Oscillation (AO) conditions explained most of the trends in summer sea ice extent in the Eurasian sector of the Arctic Ocean (Rigor et al. 2002), while in the Alaskan sector the recent extreme minima may be a delayed effect of the prolonged high-AO conditions of the early 1990's (Rigor and Wallace, 2004). We plan to exploit these significant lag correlations to provide seasonal forecasts of summer sea ice conditions in a project funded by NOAA's Climate Transitions Program (NCTP). The NCTP “supports transition of climate information tools and management insights into user-relevant products.” In our project we plan to “transition” our Arctic climate research towards “operational” forecasting of Arctic sea ice, with an emphasis towards navigation in the Arctic during summer. But can we develop products that will be more useful to a broader segment of society? We would like to know, who else holds a stake in seasonal outlooks for Arctic sea ice? Can these outlooks affect the Pacific Northwest?
Ignatius Rigor was a student of Mike Wallace, and is currently a Research Scientist at the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, UW.