SEARCH : Study of Environmental Arctic Change

Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook (SIWO)

Update

  • Status: The 2015 SIWO season started with the first report released Friday, 3 April. We will be posting weekly updates every Friday throughout the summer ice season. To receive notifications when a new report is available, enter your email address in the box to the right. You can also follow SIWO on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seaiceforwalrus.

If you have comments or questions about the Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook, please contact Kristina Creek (creek [at] arcus [dot] org).

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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 [dot] 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

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

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

NYTimes: "Another Symbol of the Arctic's Complex Ecosystem Finds Itself on Thin Ice": http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2010/08/10/10climatewire-another-symbol-of-...

"Ice-forecasting Project Uses Facebook to Improve Safety for Walrus Hunters and Whalers": http://www.thearcticsounder.com/article/1121ice-forecasting_project_uses...

Radio Interview: April 27, 2012. "New Sea Ice Report to Chronicle Arctic Conditions." Alaska Public Radio.

KNOM Radio: http://www.knom.org/profiles/2012/04/27/index.html

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

Documents

SIWO Flyer (PDF - 415 KB)

creek [at] arcus [dot] org (Kristina Creek), ronnie [at] arcus [dot] org (Ronnie Owens), helen [at] arcus [dot] org (Helen Wiggins) - Sea Ice Outlook Central Office, ARCUS
Vmetcalf [at] kawerak [dot] org (Vera Kingeekuk Metcalf) - Eskimo Walrus Commission
hajo [dot] eicken [at] gi [dot] alaska [dot] 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

22 May 2015 - Current Conditions:

Near St. Lawrence Island

Sea ice conditions near St. Lawrence Island have continued to decline this week. Sea ice within the lagoons around the island is no longer shorefast. Niyakpak Lagoon has surface and near shore melting with open water conditions and an isolated first year strip of ice off the coastline from the lagoon. From Camp Iveetok over to Tomname Lagoon and Camp Kalowiye the ice near shore is melting from the coastline out with surface meltwater ponds forming. Very open pack is drifting past the coast near Camp Kalowiye, with open water beyond the isolated area. To the south of the island within the lagoons the sea ice continues to slowly melt in place with meltwater ponds forming on the ice surface. Much of the island is surrounded by sea ice free or open water conditions at this time.

Wales to Shishmaref

Much of the previously shorefast sea ice along the coast from Wales up to Shishmaref broke off from the coastline this past week. At this time the remaining sea ice is rotting in place along coastal areas with a lot of meltwater on the remaining ice surfaces. The furthest extent of the remaining ice near the coast extends roughly 2 miles off the coast near Shishmaref. The remainder of the ice near the coast is confined to the lagoons.

Beyond the lagoons from Mugisitokiwik to Shishmaref lies an area roughly 3 to 5 miles wide of very open pack consisting of first year ice floes. Beyond that area from Shishmaref down through the Bering Strait past Wales lies a region of very close pack ice that has consolidated in recent days.

5 to 10 Day Forecast

Weather System/Wind Synopsis

With low pressure in the southwest Bering Sea, winds across the Bering Strait and near St. Lawrence Island will be from the southeast at 15 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) on Friday the 22nd of May. The main low pressure system will remain predominantly in the southwest Bering Sea with some wiggle back and forth through Wednesday the 27th of May. Winds on Saturday the 23rd will increase a bit to southeast at 25 to 30 kt (30 to 35 mph) then decrease to 15 to 25 kt (20 to 30 mph) on Sunday the 24th of May and remain in that range through Tuesday the 26th. Winds will back off to 10 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) from the east on Wednesday the 27th of May as high pressure starts to increase in the Beaufort Sea. With high pressure continuing to build in the Beaufort Sea and low pressure moving into the central Aleutian Islands, variable winds of 10 to 15 kt through the Bering Strait are expected on Thursday the 28th of May. At St. Lawrence Island, winds will be east to southeast at 15 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) on Thursday the 28th. High pressure moves closer to the northwest coast of Alaska on Friday the 29th turning the winds to the northeast at 15 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) for Friday and Saturday (the 29th and 30th of May). By Sunday the 31st of May, the high pressure has strengthened as the northeast winds increased to 20 to 25 kt (25 to 30 mph) and will remain at this strength through Monday the 1st of June.

Temperature Trend & Ice Forecast

Temperatures will be around 5 to 10 degrees above normal with daytime temperatures around 40 to 50° F. Overnight temperatures in the 30s are anticipated. Temperatures will dip closer to normal toward the end of the period with the northeast winds present. Daytime temperatures from Friday the 29th to Monday the 1st of June will be range from 35 to 45°F. Overnight temperatures will dip into the 25 to 35°F range.

The wind direction will be generally out of the east through much of the week. Therefore, we expect that sea and lagoon ice will destabilize or melt in place along the coastline of St. Lawrence Island. Open water and sea ice free areas surrounding Saint Lawrence Island are expected to continue expanding, with isolated first year ice floes drifting offshore near the north and east coastlines of the island.

During this time the remaining coastal ice outside of the lagoons along the coast from Wales to Shishmaref is expected to destabilize while sea ice remaining within the lagoons continues to melt in place. Compact ice floes near Wales and through the eastern Bering Strait will shift and spread out to the west, decreasing in concentration within the Bering Strait and toward Russia. Meltwater ponds will continue to form on remaining first year ice in the Bering Strait region due to the warmer temperatures during this period, and moderate ice melt will occur in general across the Bering Strait region.

At the end of next week, Friday the 29th through Monday the 1st of June, winds will be from the northeast. During this timeframe, we expect low concentration ice floes to move out of the Chukchi through the Bering Strait toward St. Lawrence Island.

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 Wales

    22 May 2015 - Winton Weyapuk Jr.

    Today we have pack ice moving north with the current with a lead 1/2 mile wide along the shorefast ice. The pack ice is slightly ridged and is quite extensive and fairly tightly packed. No walrus have been seen as of yet on this side of the strait.

Previous Outlook Observations

  • Observations from Shishmaref

    18 May 2015 - Curtis Nayokpuk

    There is standing water pooled over an average of one-foot thick shorefast ice. Other "flat ice" leads (to haul boats) that froze over are about 4 inches thick thus limiting access to open sea. We may need to take pick axes and shovels to clear a path through ice ridges over stable ice if need be. Rain and mist again this morning.

    18 May 2015 - Shishmaref, photo courtesy of C. Nayokpuk18 May 2015 - Shishmaref, photo courtesy of C. Nayokpuk

    18 May 2015 - Shishmaref, photo cou18 May 2015 - sleds on the ice at Shishmaref, photo courtesy of C. Nayokpukrtesy of C. Nayokpuk18 May 2015 - sleds on the ice at Shishmaref, photo courtesy of C. Nayokpuk

    The satellite image of Shishmaref, below, shows evidence of the flooding due to rain described by C. Nayokpuk. Wet ice is evident in level ice regions. It appears a darker shade of grey than dry, unflooded ice or ice that is rough and better drained than level ice. The boundary between the flooded level ice (darker in the satellite image) to the South and the rougher ice (brighter in the satellite image) to the North is clearly visible.

    Image courtesy of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. Further imagery available at: http://www.arcus.org/search-program/siwo/jaxa.

    16 May 2015 - Satellite image of Shishmaref16 May 2015 - Satellite image of Shishmaref

    17 May 2015 - Curtis Nayokpuk

    Reports from few boats out, access to launch area will be unstable with continued rain as the only flat ice to haul boats is thin (4 inches) and rest of shorefast ice is rough crushed piled ridges blocking travel. Handful of bearded seals brought home so far hampered by high S-SE winds and rain, fog.

    17 May 2015 - Shishmaref, photo courtesy of C. Nayokpuk17 May 2015 - Shishmaref, photo courtesy of C. Nayokpuk

    17 May 2015 - Shishmaref, photo courtesy of C. Nayokpuk17 May 2015 - Shishmaref, photo courtesy of C. Nayokpuk

    15 May 2015 - Curtis Nayokpuk

    High southerly/easterly winds this past week delayed trips (ice might break off) out to shorefast ice edge so we have been inland at camps before rivers go out. Drizzle and fog this morning and the forecast is same for next couple days. Should be out on the ice by Sunday launching boats.
    16 May 2015 - Satellite image of Shishmaref16 May 2015 - Satellite image of Shishmaref

  • Observations from Nome

    15 May 2015 - Fred Tocktoo

    Shore ice is gone but going back and forth within the Norton Sound and around Nome southern shores, and will be gone within three weeks. Nome is finally seeing temperatures over 40 degrees with fog and rain.

    15 May 2015 - Boogles Johnson

    The shore ice around Nome has broken off and is going out and coming back. Currently it is raining out. The way the ice is, we will have more foggy days till the ice is gone. The ice should hang around and hunters should have excellent opportunities to find game and sufficient ice to butcher on. I can see the ice staying around till we have some sufficient winds from the east or north to push it into the Bering Strait. This warm weather has been aggressively melting the ice and it seems a little early this year due to the warm weather.

  • Observations from Wales

    15 May 2015 - Winton Weyapuk Jr.

    This morning visibility over the strait is obscured by fog. We have had open water with steady fields of mostly slightly ridged pack ice drifting north with the current. The pack ice has been 1/2 to 1 mile from the edge of the shorefast ice or more depending on wind strength from the northeast. Shorefast ice is beginning to thaw although it is still quite solid in most places with a few melted holes here and there, most noticeable below the mouth of Village Creek.

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Remote Sensing Data

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

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