The present and future state of the Arctic sea ice cover is explored using new observations and a coupled one dimensional air–sea–ice model. Updated satellite observations of Fram Strait ice-area export show an increase over the last four years, with ∼37% increase in winter 07–08. Atmospheric poleward energy flux declined since 1990, but advection of oceanic heat has recently increased. Simulations show that the ice area export is a stronger driver of thinning than the estimated ocean heat fluxes of 40 TW. Increased ocean heat transport will raise primarily Atlantic layer temperature. The ‘present 2007’ state of the Arctic ice could be a stable state given the recent high ice area export, but if ocean heat advection and ice export decrease, the ice cover will recover. A 2*CO2 scenario with export and oceanic heat flux remaining strong, forecasts a summer Arctic open ocean area of 95% around 2050.