Currently, the US National Ice Center – based in Washington and run jointly by the Navy, Coast Guard, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – issues Arctic ice forecasts for conditions expected within a day or two, says Pablo Clemente-Colon, the center's chief scientist.
But in a clear sign that a day or two isn't enough, "one of the requirements we recently received from the Coast Guard is to get seven-day forecasts of sea-ice conditions so they can properly plan operations," Dr. Clemente-Colon says.
All this has a familiar ring to veteran Arctic scientists.
Ice forecasts were "an important element during the Cold War," says Axel Schweiger, a polar scientist at the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory in Seattle. Back then, US and Soviet nuclear submarines stalked one another in an ocean basin seen as a prime area for launching sub-based, nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.
But interest in Arctic sea-ice forecasts waned when the Cold War ended, only to return with concerns about the effects of global warming.