SEARCH : Study of Environmental Arctic Change

Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook (SIWO)

Update

  • Status: The 2015 SIWO season ended with the last report released 5 June 2015. All ice was gone from the areas of interest several weeks earlier than in the previous years.

If you have comments or thoughts about the 2015 ice and hunting season in your area, you can send them to Kristina Creek (creek [at] arcus.org). We will continue to post them to the Observations section below. You can also follow SIWO on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seaiceforwalrus.

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Photo by Maggie Prevenas - PolarTREC/ARCUSPhoto by Maggie Prevenas - PolarTREC/ARCUS

The Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook (SIWO), an activity of the SEARCH Sea Ice Outlook started in 2010, is a resource for Alaska Native subsistence hunters, coastal communities, and others interested in sea ice and walrus. The SIWO provides weekly reports from April through June with information on sea ice conditions relevant to walrus in the Northern Bering Sea and southern Chukchi Sea regions of Alaska.

If you are a local hunter, expert, or a scientist with observations on sea ice, please send your comments to creek [at] arcus.org (Kristina Creek); your comments will be posted to this page.

This collaboration includes weather and ice forecasters, climate scientists and sea-ice researchers at NOAA, the National Weather Service, the University of Alaska, and the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS, with funding from the National Science Foundation's Division of Arctic Sciences), who are teaming up with Alaska Native sea-ice experts and the Eskimo Walrus Commission.

SIWO on Facebook Follow #SIWO (via @ArcticResearch) on Twitter

Webcams

UAF's Wales Sea Ice Webcam: http://seaice.alaska.edu/gi/observatories/wales_webcam

Walrus/Whale Tracking

USGS Walrus Tracking Website: http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/biology/walrus/tracking.html

AK Department of Fish and Game Bowhead Tracking Website: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=marinemammalprogram.bowhead

Press & Outreach

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Alaska Native Knowledge Merges with Modern Research to Help Study Arctic (27 June 2015)

KNOM Radio: Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook (27 April 2012)

Alaska Public Radio Interview: New Sea Ice Report to Chronicle Arctic Conditions (27 April 2012)

SIWO Highlighted in the U.S. Arctic Research Commission Report on the Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research 2011-2012

Arctic Sounder: Ice-forecasting Project Uses Facebook to Improve Safety for Walrus Hunters and Whalers (24 May 2011)

Webinar hosted by Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP) (May 24, 2011).

NYTimes: Another Symbol of the Arctic's Complex Ecosystem Finds Itself on Thin Ice (10 August 2010)

Webinar hosted by Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP) (15 June 2010)

Documents

SIWO Flyer (PDF - 415 KB)

creek [at] arcus.org (Kristina Creek), ronnie [at] arcus.org (Ronnie Owens), helen [at] arcus.org (Helen Wiggins) - Sea Ice Outlook Central Office, ARCUS
Vmetcalf [at] kawerak.org (Vera Kingeekuk Metcalf) - Eskimo Walrus Commission
hajo.eicken [at] gi.alaska.edu (Hajo Eicken) - University of Alaska Fairbanks and SEARCH Science Steering Committee
Gary Hufford, Don Moore - National Weather Service
Jim Overland, Nancy Soreide, Tracey Nakamura, Nick Bond - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Lab (NOAA/PMEL)
Sue Moore - NOAA Office of Science & Technology and SEARCH Science Steering Committee (SSC)

Assessment of Current Ice Conditions Relevant to Distribution and Access of Walrus

5 June 2015 - Current Conditions:

Near St. Lawrence Island

The only sea ice left around St. Lawrence Island remains in the lagoons. This sea ice is rotting in place. The island is surrounded by sea ice-free conditions at this time.

Wales to Shishmaref

The only sea ice remaining is near Mugisitokiwik, as well as in the southern end of Lopp Lagoon. The ice along the coast near Mugisitokiwik extends out 1 nautical mile or less from the coast.

5 to 10 Day Forecast

Weather System/Wind Synopsis

Low pressure will be over the mainland of Alaska on Friday, 5 June, producing northerly winds of 20 to 25 kt (25 to 30 mph). A weak low will move over the Bering Strait Saturday night with winds changing from the north at 15 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) early Saturday to southerly at 15 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) by midday Sunday, 7 June. A front approaches from Siberia on Monday, increasing the southerly winds to 20 to 25 kt (25 to 30 mph). The front retreats into the Arctic Monday night as a low moves into the southern Bering Sea. Winds will switch to the north at 15 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) for Tuesday, 9 June as the low moves to Nunivak Island. The low moves to the Chukchi Sea on Wednesday with north winds remaining at 15 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph). The low moves into the Russian Chukchi Sea Wednesday night and remains over Eastern Russia through Thursday, 11 June. Winds will again switch to the southwest at 15 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) for Thursday. This weak low is pushed north Friday as a stronger low swings into the western Bering Sea. Southeasterly winds will increase to 20 to 25 kt (25 to 30 mph) for Friday. The low will move into eastern Russia Saturday, 13 June with southerly winds increasing to 30 kt (35 mph). The low continues to move into the Arctic north of Russia Sunday, 14 June with southerly winds of 20 to 25 kt (25 to 30 mph). By Monday the 15th, high pressure will be over the northern Bering Sea creating west winds of 10 to 15 kt (15 to 20 mph).

Temperature Trend & Ice Forecast

Temperatures will be around normal with daytime temperatures around 35 to 45°F. The warmest temperatures will be on the mainland. Overnight temperatures in the 30s are anticipated.

During this time the remaining coastal ice outside of the lagoons along the coast from Wales to Shishmaref is expected to melt out this week. Sea ice remaining within the lagoons will continue to melt in place.

Assessment of Current Ice Conditions Relevant to Distribution and Access of Walrus

Observations of Sea Ice Development

In this location, you will find comments about ice development based on information provided by local ice experts and other researchers based on ground observations and satellite images.

Additional comments and images are regularly posted to the SIWO Facebook page.

Current Outlook Observations

  • Observations from Nome

    5 June 2015 - Fred Tocktoo

    Ice conditions each year seem to be later in the fall and thinner, constant movement beyond three to five miles from shore. Early break ups have been seen in Seward Peninsula, Alaska within the last twenty years.

  • Observations from Wales

    6 June 2015 - Winton Weyapuk

    One resident said she saw what appears to be shorefast ice 8 miles north of Wales but she was not sure if it was still solid or fractured or broken up. So it seems there is more sea ice between here and Shishmaref than we thought, at least along the shore.

    5 June 2015 - Winton Weyapuk

    As we thought might happen, the strong northerly wind during the past two days pushed pack ice back down the coast to Wales. It is composed of mainly small broken pieces, bergy bits, small rounded floes, and some small floes. The amount is comparable to other instances when pack ice has been pushed back south to Wales in the past. I will keep an eye on it and note what it does in the next few days or the next week or so. Temperatures are cold, in the low 30's today.

Previous Outlook Observations

  • Observations from Wales

    1 June 2015 - Winton Weyapuk

    Most of the sea ice has drifted past and today there is no pack ice visible. We have strong northeasterly winds so if there is any ice to the south it has been blown out into the Bering Strait and is not visible from here. Wales passengers flying from Nome to Wales reported there still is broken shorefast ice in front of Brevig and in Port Clarence, as well as some ice near shore 15-20 miles north of Wales. They also reported seeing a large walrus herd on an ice-floe twenty miles southeast by Cape York, which was the only piece of ice available for them here. We probably won't see the pack ice to the southeast as the wind will blow it out further.

    31 May 2015 - Winton Weyapuk

    10:10 a.m. Skies are overcast, wind is variable, temperature 40F, visibility 32 miles. There is a narrow strip of low pack ice (less than ¼ mile wide) moving north. There are numerous small pieces of broken ice on shore with 3-4 foot waves breaking on shore and the sandbars. There were two Wales crews out hunting yesterday.

    30 May 2015 - Winton Weyapuk

    8:20 a.m. Skies are clear, wind NNE at 20 mph, temperature 41F, visibility 32 miles. There are a few small scattered ice floes moving north with the current 1½ miles from shore and none visible further out. These small pieces are probably the last of the pack ice we will see this spring.

    29 May 2015 - Amos Oxereok

    A couple of pictures from a hunt earlier this week:

  • Observations from Shishmaref

    1 June 2015 - Curtis Nayokpuk

    The high NE-E winds forecast for rest of the week will limit late season hunts in the remaining sea ice. Shorefast ice is breaking up and moving out with east winds today. Early season break up (rain, wind) caught hunters off guard and forced an early hunt. It was very slow the first two weeks (scarce seals), and then the weather improved. When the Norton Sound ice moved North through the Bering Strait there was good weather and concentration of bearded seals and walrus making for good hunting compared to previous years.

    This is the first day of June and most hunters are done with bearded seal and working on final hunts for walrus. Seasonal (traditional) hunting would be in mid-season (with snowmobile use) then boating up until the first week of July for walrus. Hunters have had a very good early spring season and will be out mainly for egg hunting then prep for first salmon runs with ice gone along the shoreline.

    1 June 2015 - Camp and shoreline near Shishmaref. Photo courtesy of Curtis Nayokpuk.1 June 2015 - Camp and shoreline near Shishmaref. Photo courtesy of Curtis Nayokpuk.

    30 May 2015 - Curtis Nayokpuk

    Ice pack spreading out for boat travel. No walrus in ice off Shishmaref, so hunters are traveling W-NW 30 to 40 miles to hunt at the ice edge. They are finding walrus along Wales to Pt. Hope in the main current. Hunting continues in ice pack for bearded seals. Good spring subsistence season for hunters with clear sky and light winds after the early spring melt with rain, fog, and high winds a few weeks ago.

    Sea ice and walrus pictures from a recent trip:

  • Observations from Gambell

    29 May 2015 - Merle Apassingok

    Looks like there is no visible ice in all directions in the immediate vicinity and up to a 40-mile radius according to reports. But there is some residual ice on the northern shore between Gambell and N.E. cape. Rotting shore ice continues to break up.

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Remote Sensing Data

Bering Strait Bering Strait
St. Lawrence Island St. Lawrence Island
Wales to Shishmaref Wales to Shishmaref

Additional Resources

Ice Imagery

Additional satellite images can be found at the Geographic Information Network of Alaska (GINA) website: http://gina.alaska.edu.

For those with low-bandwidth internet connections, there is also a direct feed to the most recent satellite images for the Bering Strait, St. Lawrence Island, and the Barrow region. You can access these images at: http://watch.gina.alaska.edu/.

Information on Ice Conditions

SAR Imagery from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency