Sea Ice Drift Forecast Experiment (2017-2020)

The Sea Ice Drift Forecast Experiment (SIDFEx, 2017–2020) is a community effort to collect and analyse Arctic sea ice drift forecasts at lead times from days to a year, based on arbitrary methods, for a number of sea-ice buoys and, ultimately, research icebreaker Polarstern, on a regular basis.


SIDFEx is motivated in part by the need to determine an optimal deployment position of the research icebreaker Polarstern when she will start her year-long drift across the Arctic in autumn 2019 (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate – MOSAiC; Specifically, it is unclear whether forecast systems that account for initial conditions and provide forecasts of the evolving atmosphere, ice, and ocean system, can provide additional skill over drift forecasts made using historical sea ice velocity fields.  The MOSAiC drift provides a template for assessing the capabilities to forecast sea-ice drift for a range of applications, ranging from logistics support for future field experiments to potential search and rescue operations.  The examination of sea ice drift forecasts provides an integrated assessment of many aspects of the coupled atmosphere-ice-ocean system and will motivate in depth investigations into how key variables are measured, modeled, and forecast.  In particular, we expect coordinated drift forecasts to draw attention to the interaction between sea ice physics and boundary layer physics in both atmosphere and ocean. We expect that a systematic assessment of real drift forecasting capabilities will improve our physical understanding of sea ice and enable us to identify and resolve model shortcomings and identify limits of predictability.


SIDFEx is largely the result of discussions held at various meetings, in particular in the context of the Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP), MOSAiC, the Sea Ice Prediction Network (SIPN;, and the Forum of Arctic Modelling and Observations Systhesis (FAMOS;

Background and guidelines for SIDFEx contributions

A document providing details on the design of SIDFEx and how to contribute drift forecasts can be obtained here. Note that it is still possible to influence the details outlined in the document by providing feedback (as soon as possible) to the below email address.


As detailed in the guidelines document, SIDFEx targets a number of buoys of the International Arctic Buoy Program (IABP). The selected buoys are listed here, along with a near-real-time map showing their positions and drift history.


You may contact us via email.