Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook (SIWO)

Update

  • Status: The 2016 SIWO season is in full swing! Updated outlooks will be published each week, on Fridays.

To share comments or images about the conditions in your area, send them to Kristina Creek (creek [at] arcus.org) or join the conversation on the SIWO Facebook page: 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

19 May 2016 - Current Conditions:

Near St. Lawrence Island

Sea ice along the northern coastline of St. Lawrence Island continued to break apart and destabilize during the past week. Shorefast ice remains along the northern coastline extending offshore up to 5 nautical miles. West of Savoonga, beyond the shorefast ice of the northern coast lies a polynya with open water to very open pack ice consisting of first year ice floes. Beyond the shorefast ice of the northern coast, east of Savoonga, there is close pack ice. Open water currently lies off the coast near Gambell with open pack ice drifting with the winds and ocean currents further offshore. Belts of ice are being pulled down past the east coast of the island with open to close pack ice. Rotting first year ice floes are currently drifting past the southeastern coastline of the island. These ice floes are riding low in the water and are expected to melt out rapidly in the coming week. West of Sekinak Lagoon on the south coast lies open water with very open pack ice drifting with the winds and ocean current further offshore.

Wales to Shishmaref

Some shorefast ice along the coast from Wales to Shishmaref has broken off in the past week. It still remains in place near Mugisitokiwik (stretching up to 9 nautical miles offshore) and Shishmaref (stretching approximately 5 nautical miles offshore). Beyond the shorefast ice from Mugisitokiwik to Ikpek lies a region of very open pack with first year floes, while beyond the shorefast ice from Ikpek to Shishmaref lies a region of close pack ice consisting of first year floes. There is also a giant floe off the coast of Ikpek that has broken off from the shorefast ice. A very narrow polynya with isolated first year ice floes has opened near the coastline, from approximately Shishmaref to Espenberg. Beyond the coastline from Tin City to Wales lies an area of open water with first year floes drifting past. Much of the eastern half of the Bering Strait is open water to open pack ice at this time, and the main ice pack in the southern Chukchi Sea continues to collapse with first year floes breaking apart and shifting.

Forecast Discussion

Ice Forecast

From now through May 24th, we expect the shorefast ice along the northern coastline of St. Lawrence Island to continue to destabilize with mainly southerly to southwesterly wind flow. During this time the close pack ice will shift northward along the east coast of the island.

For the Wales to Shishmaref region we expect the outer edges of the shorefast ice to slowly continue to destabilize in the coming week. The close pack ice will drift southwestward along the shorefast ice through May 21st. Polynyas will continue to form off the shorefast ice edge as winds become southerly again on May 22nd.

Weather System/Wind Synopsis

Low pressure will move from the Alaska Peninsula on Friday, 20 May to north of the Bering Strait on 21 May. Another, weaker low-pressure system will move from Bristol Bay to Norton Sound on 22 May. High pressure will build over the southern Bering Sea starting 22 May, with low pressure over Chukotka. With these rapidly moving weather systems, wind directions will be variable and quickly changing. However, except for a brief period of south winds 20 to 30 mph (15 to 25 kt) through the Bering Strait late on 21 May, wind speeds will generally be 15 mph (13kt) or less. Starting 23 May, a prolonged period of south to southwest winds 15 to 25 mph (10 to 20 kt) is likely, with the potential for briefly higher winds through the Bering Strait.

Temperature Trend

Temperatures will generally remain warmer than normal for the next two weeks, except for a period of near-normal temperatures 21-23 May. During the period of 21-23 May, daytime temperatures are forecast in the 30s to low-40s, with overnight lows in the upper 20s. After that, daytime temperatures will generally be 40 to 50 with overnight lows in the 30s. The coolest temperatures throughout the next two weeks will be near 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 Shishmaref

    20 May 2016 - Curtis Nayokpuk

    The ice is stable for travel to leads 5 to 6 miles north of Shishmaref, and hunters are having good bearded seal hunts. There are no open, ice-free areas to venture further out from the boat launch and no walrus have been seen yet. Bearded seals will be the main take for now as ice holds and forecasted southerly winds should open up large ice pans for safe travel out for walrus later in the week.

Previous Outlook Observations

  • Observations from Shishmaref

    13 May 2016 - Curtis Nayokpuk

    Rain and warm, southerly winds are melting snow cover and opening leads up 5 to 6 miles north. Hunters are working to get boats ready and moved to beach front for travel to open leads when offshore winds subside. Forecast of fog, snow, and winds shifting to northwest may delay boat hunts and hunters will be out with snowmobiles looking for Bearded Seals along open leads.

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Remote Sensing Data

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

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

For the current sea ice concentration analysis (updated daily)
http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/ice.php?img=CT

For the current sea ice stage (thickness) analysis (updated daily)
http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/ice.php?img=SA

For the current sea ice forecast map (updated M/W/F)
http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/ice.php?img=Forecast

For the corresponding sea ice forecast text product (updated M/W/F)
http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/marfcst.php?fcst=FZAK80PAFC

For the sea surface temperature map (updated daily)
http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/ice.php?img=SST

For an interactive google map to see the concentration/stage/thickness:
http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/icemap.php

SAR Imagery from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency