Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook (SIWO)
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.
UAF's Wales Sea Ice Webcam: http://seaice.alaska.edu/gi/observatories/wales_webcam
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). Archive available here: http://ine.uaf.edu/accap/telecon_archive.htm
Webinar hosted by Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP) (June 15, 2010). Archive available here: http://ine.uaf.edu/accap/telecon_archive.htm
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.
SIWO Highlighted in the U.S. Arctic Research Commission Report on the Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research 2011-2012: http://www.arctic.gov/publications/2011-12_usarc_goals.html
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
Near St. Lawrence Island
St. Lawrence Island is completely sea ice free with the open water edge located roughly 70 miles to the north of the island.
Wales to Shishmaref
The seasonal melt has continued in the southern Chukchi Sea this past week. The Bering Strait and southern Chukchi Sea up to roughly 69.5 degrees north are mainly open water. No shorefast ice remains along the coastline from Wales to Shishmaref. The ice remaining consists of open to very open pack ice stretching up to 15 miles off the coastline. Bays and waters within the barrier islands are open water.
5 to 10 Day Forecast
A low-pressure system over the Chukchi Sea will bring southerly winds of 25 to 30 mph (20 to 25 knots) on Friday, 28 June. On Saturday, 29 June, the low will move over the northern Beaufort Sea as high pressure builds over the north slope of Alaska and southern Beaufort Sea through Sunday, 30 June. A large low will move into the Bering Sea late Sunday, passing over the Bering Strait Monday, 1 July and continuing over the East Siberian Sea Tuesday, 2 July, bringing southerly flow of 30 to 40 mph (25 to 35 knots) through the Bering Strait. A weaker low will pass over St. Lawrence Island Thursday, 4 July and remain over the Bering Strait region through Sunday, 7 July. Dominant winds out of the south during this forecast period will dramatically reduce the remaining sea ice along the coast and aid in shifting the ice further offshore from Wales to Shishmaref.
Additional Ice Imagery from the NWS Ice Desk
Archive of Recent Satellite Images Showing More Detail
The links above take you to a user-friendly archive, through the Geographic Information Network of Alaska (GINA) website, which contains all the available high resolution satellite images for the two regions.
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
Curtis Nayokpuk, Shishmaref
There was still scattered ice pack in Shishmaref at the end of June. On 27 June, hunters reported that the ice 20 miles west was packed and they could not get in to hunt young oogruk. Some are still seeing walrus "swimmers" in groups reported in the hundreds, 3-6 miles further out in open sea and presumably on the Wales to Kiviaina-Pt. Hope migration line in the main current. No walrus are hauling out on the remaining ice west of Shishmaref, and one boat towed a walrus six miles to butcher on ice. When weather permitted, hunting was good (concentration of game following ice north) and most hunters caught what they needed, but some were late due to poor conditions.
As a result some drying racks are still full (most well past dry stage and waiting on natural rendering of seal oil) at the beginning of July, and they have to worry about spoilage due to warm temps and rain. Shishmaref's coastal location was favorable for cool breeze off the ocean, but summer winds have shifted to S-SE very warm winds off the mainland (bringing swarms of blood suckers). The high temperatures are not good for seal meat still on racks, and black flies are out so the work is like watching the fish dry, and cleaning the just layed larva each hour.
Hunters try to harvest early (traditionally with dogs, now snowmobiles) and go after walrus and young oogruk with boats. With the temperatures and weather conditions changing, the need to hunt early is even more crucial to avoid late season problems on food prep. Additionally, we set salmon nets along the beach line for the first salmon run (to avoid floating chunks of ice) and when walrus hunts are successful earlier in the season, the drying racks are clear of seal to make room for fish.
Vera Metcalf, Eskimo Walrus Commission
At the end of June, hunters in Gambell expressed concerns about the low walrus harvest during spring hunting due to constant northerly winds and ice locked in Gambell's south-side beach. Savoonga also expressed concerns about low walrus harvest. It will be good to look back to see wind and ice conditions for the 2013 season and verify/compare against future conditions.
Update on ice conditions in Anadyr Gulf
27 June 2013 - Hajo Eicken, University of Alaska Fairbanks
While waters around St. Lawrence Island in the surrounding Bering Sea are mostly ice-free, some remnant ice remains in Kresta Bay in the northwestern corner of Anadyr Gulf. The MODIS satellite scene below from a couple of days ago shows the remnant shorefast ice cover, most likely in an advanced stage of decay. As pointed out earlier by local experts in Gambell (Paul Apangalook and the late Leonard Apangalook, Sr.), this Siberian ice is typically the last ice at the end of the season to come by St. Lawrence Island. Game animals such as walrus or bearded seal are typically absent from this ice. While break-up of Kresta Bay ice is late compared to a very unusual early break-up that we discussed in the SIWO in June of 2011, Igor Krupnik from the Smithsonian Institution has pointed out that historically, break-up and clearing of ice from the bay typically did not occur until much later in July. While some of this ice may make it out to St. Lawrence Island, most of it will likely melt in place.
Previous Outlook Observations
Comments from Shishmaref
19 June 2013 - Curtis Nayokpuk
Shorefast ice breaking up in front of Shishmaref allowing access to open sea. Hunters are venturing out and successful with bearded seals and some walrus. Although late into the spring hunt it will be a good season for Shishmaref hunters.