A late thaw at the North Pole has some people optimistic that Arctic sea ice won't shrink to record lows this summer.

So far, observations show less ice north of Alaska, in the Barents Sea and in Baffin Bay. There are also lower concentrations of ice in the Canadian Beaufort Sea.

More than 20 groups from around the world are contributing information to the Sea Ice Outlook project. They include European scientists, the national ice services in Canada and the U.S, and Inuit hunters.

At the end of June, buoys and web cameras at the North Pole Environmental Observatory showed the ice melt there was very late. There was also a lot of snow and few melt ponds.

There's also more second-year ice this year in some areas. Second-year ice has survived a melt season, which normally runs from June until September.

Ice cover slightly more than 2008, says university professor

"Most of the contributors are anticipating that the ice cover this summer is going to be slightly more than it has been last year and somewhat more than it has been in 2007, but the range is very narrow," Hajo Eicken, professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, told CBC News on Tuesday.

Winton Weyapuk, an Inupiaq whaling captain from the village of Wales, Alaska, near the Russian coast, is taking part in the Sea Ice Outlook project.

Weyapuk said it's important to keep a close watch on what's happening to the ice since his people depend on it. He said shore-fast ice isn't as thick as before. Animals such as walrus, whales and seals migrate with the ice.

Shore-fast ice runs from a frozen bay or other areas but remains attached to land.

"It’s important for several reasons besides migration of animals and so forth probably will affect beach erosion along the coastline and affect the lives of people in the spring and summer, and in winter," Weyapuk said.

He said anything could happen at this point, depending on the weather conditions and currents in August.