Bering Sea ice could see reduction as storm motion shifts

U.S. Fish & Wildlife photo
U.S. Fish & Wildlife photo(KTUU)
Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 11:03 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A wild ride! That’s a perfect description of what January has brought much of Southcentral and Southeast. Following nearly two weeks of nonstop storms and warmth in the region, a pattern shift is heading our way.

Lately, the influx of lows in the Gulf of Alaska has kept seas quiet across the Bering. While temperatures across much of the state continue to remain above average, the lack of storms in the Bering has been beneficial for sea ice. Data shows that sea ice is currently up to roughly 90% of the 1981-2010 average, largely due to the steady growth that has been seen this month. This can be partially attributed to the storm motion staying well south of the Bering and maintaining a constant and continuous approach into the Gulf of Alaska.

This is set to change in the coming days, as a pattern shift is underway across the state. High pressure is currently setting up in the Northern Pacific Ocean, which will set the stage for our upcoming weather across coastal regions. While a cold blob of air will settle back into the eastern half of the state, the high pressure will redirect storms into the Bering Sea. This will pose some problems for the thin ice, as incoming storms, high seas, winds and warmer air will eat into the ice cover. Thin ice or young ice, is naturally vulnerable to weather changes as it can be pushed around more easily by winds and melt quicker.

Concentration of Sea Ice across the Arctic shows a lower concentration across the Bering Sea
Concentration of Sea Ice across the Arctic shows a lower concentration across the Bering Sea(NSIDC)

Sea ice has proven to be beneficial for Alaska’s people and economy and not having it leads to more open waters and warmer conditions for the western half of the state. Strong storms that move into the Bering Sea, accompanied by prevailing winds, will not only break up the ice but could lead to it retreating to northern waters.

The Climate Prediction Center highlights this change in their recently released outlooks for the rest of January. While the warming trend will likely be short-lived, the reduction of ice this time of year is a growing trend that the Arctic continues to see in a warming climate.

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