SEARCH : Study of Environmental Arctic Change

Friday, 25 May 2012 - Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook

Weekly Outlook

Date: 
25 May 2012
Assessment of Current Ice Conditions Relevant to Distribution and Access of Walrus: 

St. Lawrence Island

Sea ice continues to melt and drift slowly north. Satellite imagery shows that there is still extensive sea ice in the central Bering Sea near St. Matthew Island. This ice is expected to reach St. Lawrence Island in the next 10-14 days. Winds have been weak so that the ice movement is mostly from ocean currents. Sea ice continues to drift out of the Gulf of Anadyr. There are a lot of ice floes to the west of Gambell, but they are more than 15 miles offshore. Shorefast ice is disappearing in many places.

Wales to Shishmaref

There is a major concentration of ice floes now in the middle of the Bering Strait, about 20 miles offshore. These floes are in a long strip extending southward to St. Lawrence Island (see satellite image). There are still many floes that are larger than one mile in diameter. Shorefast ice is diminishing along the coast near Wales. The shorefast ice off Shishmaref is still breaking up with many fractures and open water present.

5 to 10 Day Outlook

High pressure presently dominates the northern Bering Sea with a low pressure system in the northwest corner of the Gulf of Alaska. This pattern will continue through the weekend with winds less than 15 knots (20 mph). A new low pressure system will move into the western Aleutians Sunday and slowly drift eastward in the Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday, 29 May. This will tighten the pressure gradient over the northern Bering Sea/Bering Strait and NE winds will increase to 20 knots (25 mph) on Monday, becoming northerly on Tuesday. This low weakens on Wednesday, 30 May and the northerly winds will decrease to 15 knots (20 mph). Winds will continue to be less than 15 knots (20 mph) through Friday, 1 June. North winds will again increase on Saturday, 2 June, to 20 knots (25 mph) and will remain through Monday, 4 June.

Bering Strait wind direction and speed
Map of 10-day outlook of wind conditions
Bering Strait wind direction and speed

Arrows show wind direction and wind speed in knots

Remote Sensing Images

Bering Strait
Bering Strait Closeup

Observations and Comments

Observations of Sea Ice Development: 
Comments from Gambell

25 May 2012 - Paul Apangalook

The hunting has been good over the past week, thanks to plenty of ice drifting in from the southwest. The ice is mostly thin, large melting floes mixed with thicker ice from near shore out. It is closely packed and somewhat scattered further out, but there is still a lot of ice close to the shore.

At the beginning of the week the boats that went west got lots of walrus with babies, some even coming back to unload and going out again. There were walrus hauled out from about 10 miles to over 20 miles. Things changed slightly by the end of the week, as people now have to travel longer, particularly when going southwest, often up to 30 miles. On the 23rd, the boat to travel furthest out went 40 miles where they found walrus, mostly females with calves. One boat that went west northwest ran into walrus about 7 miles out and successfully harvested several. At least 3 boats that went southwest found single walrus. Most of the boats harvested maklaks (bearded seal). Two reported their catches were diseased, one young maklak and one full grown one.

Comments from Shishmaref

25 May 2012 - Curtis Nayokpuk

Just two Oogruk (bearded seals) on the local drying racks to date. Hunters are traveling 10-12 miles west along the Shishmaref to Wales coast, then out NW through flat one-foot thick ice to reach open leads 20 miles NW of Shishmaref. Travel is hampered to areas N/NE due to rough ice, exposed when snow cover melted during warm weather combined with rain a few weeks ago. Daily fog limits visibility to scout favorable routes through ice ridges to hunt the open leads 15-20 miles N/NE of Shishmaref.

17 May 2012 satellite image that has been used for planning trips to the landfas17 May 2012 satellite image that has been used for planning trips to the landfast ice edge by hunters from Shishmaref.

Comments from Wales

25 May 2012 - Winton Weyapuk Jr.

Northeasterly winds this week have kept the pack ice several miles out from the shorefast ice. Temperatures have been just below freezing this week so continued thawing of the shorefast ice is on hold. There have been a few strips of pack ice visible from the village moving north with the current. The majority of any pack ice in the strait is further out between here and the Diomede Islands and towards the north. No crews have been out hunting this week.