Arctic sea ice sit at unseasonable low levels

Arctic sea ice has stopped retreating but still remains at extreme low levels for this time of...
Arctic sea ice has stopped retreating but still remains at extreme low levels for this time of year. (KTUU)
Published: Feb. 26, 2018 at 4:02 PM AKST
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After a record late ice-over in the Chukchi and Bering Seas, recent storms have pushed Arctic sea ice back to the north – at unseasonable rates.

"Total ice extent right now would be more typical of late April than the middle of February," says Rick Thoman, climate science and services manager for the Alaska Region's National Weather Service.

Over this past weekend, the sea ice stopped retreating as the winter storms moved out of the area. Some sea ice growth is expected since we're clearly not done with winter yet, but cold air temperatures might not be enough. Water temperatures around the Pribilofs could inhibit ice growth.

"Even if we get a spell of north winds and cold temperatures, water temperatures in the area of the Pribilofs – in that latitude – are still very warm," says Thoman. "It's going to be hard to get the ice down that far, even if we get the weather to cooperate."

Born and raised in Nome, Nate Perkins says he's seen a change in the sea ice year after year.

"We've had five or six consistent years, just really poor ice conditions here close to town," says Perkins. "It's not really safe for the subsistence crabbers to be out here – to do much work. We have to work a lot harder, and go a lot farther, to find solid enough ice to crab through in the winter time."

The current weather pattern has shifted, but more winter storms are likely to come through in the next week. And this could further degrade the existing ice.

"It's almost impossible at this time of the season that we would get back up to normal," says Thoman. "We're going to have a hard time not setting a new record."