Climate models do a poor job when it comes to simulating sea-ice change in the Arctic.

Michael Winton of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, compared data from the era of satellite observations and five state-of-the-art climate models of Northern Hemisphere sea-ice cover. All of the model simulations considerably underestimated the observed sea-ice decline.

Substantial natural variability in the annual sea ice would be necessary to explain the discrepancy between observations and even the best-performing model. It is more likely that current climate models are not nearly sensitive enough to accurately gauge the behaviour of sea ice in response to warming, the authors say.

J. Clim. doi:10.1175/2011JCLI4146.1 (2011)