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

27 May 2016 - Current Conditions:

Near St. Lawrence Island

Ice-free waters currently stretch from near Gambell around the western and southern coastlines of St. Lawrence Island to near Kialegak Point. Very minimal coastal sea ice remains in isolated areas along the northern coast of the island. Very open to open pack ice lies just offshore from the northern coastline, and the remaining first year sea ice floes are rapidly melting. A belt of ice currently stretches from east of Little Diomede Island to offshore from the east coast of St. Lawrence Island and is drifting due to wind and current forcing. This belt of ice is rapidly deteriorating.

Wales to Shishmaref

Close pack ice consisting of first year ice floes is currently drifting in the current between Wales and Little Diomede Island. The western half of the Bering Strait has open water to very open pack ice at this time. Shorefast ice along the coastline from Wales to Shishmaref continues to deteriorate at this time. Within the lagoon areas coastal ice is beginning to melt and surface ponds are occurring. Coastal ice beyond the lagoons stretches up to 9 nm offshore. Beyond the coastal ice from Wales to Shishmaref lies a region of open water to very open pack ice conditions consisting of first year ice floes. Beyond the coastal ice from Shishmaref to Espenberg lies a region of very open pack ice to close pack ice consisting of first year ice floes.

Forecast Discussion

Ice Forecast

For the St. Lawrence Island region we expect the remaining isolated areas of coastal ice along the northern shore to break off within the next week. We expect that the remaining ice pack off the north and east coast of the island will continue to deteriorate and melt out to open to very open pack ice within the next week.

For the Wales to Shishmaref region we expect the outer edges of the shorefast ice to continue to destabilize in the coming week. It is possible that large sections of the coastal ice could break off within the next week. Within the lagoons, coastal ice will continue to form melt ponds and slowly melt out. From offshore near Wales to Shishmaref we expect the ice pack to continue to deteriorate leaving very open to open pack ice conditions within the next week. From offshore Shishmaref to Espenberg we expect the ice pack to continue to spread and slowly melt, leaving open to close pack ice by next week.

Weather System/Wind Synopsis

High pressure will persist over the northern Chukchi Sea through June 3rd, while a transient high pressure system will move across the northern Bering Sea May 28 to 29. A weak low pressure system will move into Bristol Bay May 30th but will likely dissipate before moving reaching St. Lawrence Island. Winds will be prevailing northeast 5-15 mph (5-10 kt) through June 1st except for a period of light and variable winds May 28 and May 29. Winds June 2nd onward generally northeast 10 to 20 mph (10-15 kt) June 2nd.

Temperature Trend

Temperatures will be warmer than normal through June 10th, with highs in the 40s and lowers in the 30s. Nearshore Wales to Shishmaref some days could even see high temperatures touch 50 degrees and highs on the coast will frequently be in the 50s.

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

No observations reported.

Previous 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.

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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

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