Seasonal to Decadal
Arctic Sea Ice
C H A L L E N G E S A N D S T R A T E G I E S
Committee on the Future of Arctic Sea Ice Research in Support of Seasonal to Decadal
Polar Research Board
Division on Earth and Life Studies
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under grant number NNX11AJ41G, the Office of Naval Research under contract number N00014-10-0589/0006, and the United States intelligence community. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring agency or any of its subagencies.
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International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-26526-6
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COMMITTEE ON THE FUTURE OF ARCTIC SEA ICE RESEARCH IN SUPPORT OF SEASONAL TO DECADAL PREDICTION
JACKIE RICHTER-MENGE (Co-Chair), Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory
JOHN E. WALSH (Co-Chair), University of Alaska, Fairbanks
LAWSON W. BRIGHAM, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
JENNIFER A. FRANCIS, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
MARIKA HOLLAND, National Center for Atmospheric Research
SON V. NGHIEM, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
ROBERT RAYE, Shell Projects and Technology
REBECCA WOODGATE,* University of Washington
KATIE THOMAS, Study Director
LAUREN BROWN, Research Associate
AMANDA PURCELL, Research Associate
ALEXANDRA JAHN, Christine Mirzayan Fellow
ELIZABETH FINKELMAN, Senior Program Assistant
*Member through June 2012
POLAR RESEARCH BOARD
JAMES W. C. WHITE (Chair), University of Colorado, Boulder
SRIDHAR ANANDAKRISHNAN, Pennsylvania State University, University Park
JULIE BRIGHAM-GRETTE, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
DAVID H. BROMWICH, Ohio State University, Columbus
JENNIFER A. FRANCIS, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
EILEEN E. HOFMANN, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia
BERNICE M. JOSEPH, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
AMY LAUREN LOVECRAFT, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
MOLLY E. MCCAMMON, Alaska Ocean Observing System, Anchorage
ELLEN S. MOSLEY-THOMPSON, Ohio State University, Columbus
GEORGE B. NEWTON, QinetiQ North America, Marstons Mills, Massachusetts
CARYN REA, ConocoPhillips, Anchorage, Alaska
VLADIMIR E. ROMANOVSKY, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
GAIUS R. SHAVER, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
ALLAN T. WEATHERWAX, Siena College, Loudonville, New York
JACQUELINE M. GREBMEIER, University of Maryland, Solomons
TERRY WILSON, Ohio State University, Columbus
DENEB KARENTZ, University of San Francisco
CHRIS ELFRING, Board Director
LAURIE GELLER, Senior Program Officer
KATIE THOMAS, Associate Program Officer
LAUREN BROWN, Research Associate
ELIZABETH FINKELMAN, Senior Program Assistant
Arctic sea ice plays important roles in moderating global climate and influencing oceanic and atmospheric circulation. Reductions in Arctic sea ice thickness and extent have been observed over the past few decades and the trend of shrinking Arctic sea ice cover is expected to continue. While there are intrinsic limitations on Arctic sea ice predictability, some predictability appears to reside in the initial ice/ocean state and in the longer-term trend. However, our limited understanding of the coupled and complex interactions among Arctic sea ice, oceans, atmosphere, and land also hinders our ability to predict the rate and magnitude of future variations. In addition, although several efforts are under way to better understand the role of Arctic sea ice in the broader context of the Arctic climate system, and to forecast sea ice, there is also a need to better understand the role that sea ice plays beyond the polar region.
The National Research Council (NRC) Committee on the Future of Arctic Sea Ice Research in Support of Seasonal to Decadal Prediction was tasked to plan and conduct a workshop with the goal of fostering a dialogue between polar scientists, agency representatives, and stakeholders. The workshop focused on current major challenges in sea ice prediction. Workshop participants were asked to identify new methods, observations, and technologies that might advance seasonal to decadal sea ice predictive capabilities through improved understanding of the Arctic system (see Box 1.1 for full statement of task).
The need for sea ice predictions is driven by new challenges and opportunities created by a changing Arctic environment. Advancements are necessary to address the growing and increasingly urgent demands from a broad array of stakeholders, with concerns spanning various direct and indirect scientific, technological, and societal impacts such as the planning for new shipping ports, oil and gas exploration, and increased marine transportation, as well as widespread ecological changes.
The workshop was held May 9-10, 2012, at the University of Colorado in Boulder (Appendix B). Nearly 50 workshop participants represented a wide spectrum of expertise in the Arctic sea ice community. Key was the participation of a range of stakeholders including scientists together with end-user groups. This workshop organization helped focus the workshop discussions
on scientific research needs in connection with end-user operations.
The output from the workshop served to inform the committee in the preparation of this report. It is expected that the report will be of interest to agencies with Arctic research programs (e.g., National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) as well as policy makers, nongovernmental organizations, and others concerned about climate change impacts in the North. It is also anticipated that agencies with polar operational and planning responsibilities, such as the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Coast Guard, will find the report of interest.
Many individuals contributed to this report. Particular thanks go to those who took time from their busy schedules to participate in the workshop. Whether as panel members, breakout group leaders, moderators, rapporteurs, or contributors, the participants readily demonstrated the advantages of an integrative approach in identifying and discussing complex issues. On behalf of the entire committee, we also want to express gratitude to those associated with the NRC staff who provided keen insights, able direction, and tremendous support to our endeavor. This includes Alexandra Jahn, a Christine Mirzayan Fellow, who prepared a background document that was distributed to all workshop participants, summarizing recent related work and activities. It also includes board director Chris Elfring, research associate Lauren Brown, project assistants Amanda Purcell and Elizabeth Finkelman, and especially our exceptional study director Katie Thomas. Last but certainly not least is a word of thanks to the dedicated committee members, who volunteered countless hours to this effort and enthusiastically contributed their expertise to the organization and implementation of the workshop and preparation of this report.
Jackie Richter-Menge and John Walsh,
Committee on the Future of Arctic Sea Ice
Research in Support of Seasonal to decadal
This report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with the procedures approved by the National Research Council (NRC) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the NRC in making its published report as sound as possible, and to ensure that the report meets NRC institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
LCDR Ken Boda, U.S. Coast Guard
Jennifer Kay, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Brendan Kelly, Office of Science and Technology Policy
Humfrey Melling, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Don Perovich, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory
Caryn Rea, ConocoPhillips
Mike Steele, University of Washington
Although these reviewers provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they did not see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Robin Bell, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. Appointed by the NRC, she was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
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Recent changes in Arctic sea ice cover are of interest to a wide variety of stakeholders, and there is an increasing demand for improved sea ice predictability. This image shows an example of pancake ice off the coast of Greenland. Image courtesy of Andy Mahoney.