The recent thinning and shrinking of the Arctic sea ice cover has increased the interest in seasonal sea ice forecasts. Typical tools for such forecasts are numerical models of the coupled ocean sea ice system such as the North Atlantic/Arctic Ocean Sea Ice Model (NAOSIM). The model uses as input the initial state of the system and the atmospheric boundary condition over the forecasting period. This study investigates the potential of remotely sensed ice thickness observations in constraining the initial model state. For this purpose it employs a variational assimilation system around NAOSIM and the Alfred Wegener Institute's CryoSat-2 ice thickness product in conjunction with the University of Bremen's snow depth product and the OSI SAF ice concentration and sea surface temperature products. We investigate the skill of predictions of the summer ice conditions starting in March for three different years. Straightforward assimilation of the above combination of data streams results in slight improvements over some regions (especially in the Beaufort Sea) but degrades the over-all fit to independent observations. A considerable enhancement of forecast skill is demonstrated for a bias correction scheme for the CryoSat-2 ice thickness product that uses a spatially varying scaling factor.
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