Assessment of Current Ice Conditions Relevant to Distribution and Access of Walrus

St. Lawrence Island

Southerly winds the last few days have pushed the compact sea ice along the north shore of the island northward and there is now lots of open water between this pack and the shorefast ice. The shorefast ice between Gambell and Savoonga is breaking down. However, the shorefast ice east of Savoonga remains in place. Sea ice in the Gulf of Anadyr is beginning to drift northeastward into the western Bering Sea. There is a lot of open water both south and west of the island. Satellite imagery shows the presence of small floes drifting slowly northward west of Gambell.

Wales to Shishmaref

The Bering Strait has really opened up over the last week. Many floes (some very large, over 1000 feet in diameter) are moving through the strait just west of Cape Prince of Wales. Shorefast ice continues to hold in place along the coast. Ground ice is still in place running in a line northwest from the cape. The shorefast ice off of Shishmaref still extends many miles offshore but is deteriorating very slowly in the satellite imagery.

5 to 10 Day Forecast

A weak low located over the central Aleutians is slowly drifting southeast into the Gulf of Alaska. In general the winds will be less than 20 knots (25 mph) over the next 5 days. High pressure moves in on Sunday, 20 May, and dominates the area through Thursday, 24 May. Winds will be northerly 15-20 knots (20-25 mph) over this period. This will cause the sea ice north of St. Lawrence to slowly push back down on the coast. A low moves out of Siberia and drops southeastward into the southern Bering Sea on Friday, 25 May bringing strong southerly winds (30 knots, 35 mph) on Saturday, 26 May. As it moves through the area, the winds will shift to northerly 25 knots (30 mph) Monday, 28 May.

Arrows show wind direction and wind speed in knots

St. Lawrence Island wind direction and speed
Map of 10-day outlook of wind conditions
Bering Strait wind direction and speed

Remote Sensing Images

Bering Strait Bering Strait Closeup

Observations and Comments

Observations of Sea Ice Development

Comments from Gambell

18 May 2012 - Paul Apangalook

The temperatures are finally getting above freezing, with the winds shifting from NE to E to SE. The snow in the village is softening and becoming slushy with puddles forming everywhere.

Several boats are going out daily despite persistent windy conditions. Most boats normally return home with a successful hunt; they are able to get walrus with babies about 10 to 20 miles out. There isn't any ice visible in the area in front of Gambell, however there are signs of ice to the west-northwest. Yesterday, the ice to the northwest was at about 14 miles out. As the weather improves, we may have more open waters and less ice, but rough seas.

Comments from Wales

17 May 2012 - Winton Weyapuk Jr.

We have had southeasterly winds the past few days with extensive open water. Pack ice is 5 to 6 miles offshore from the shorefast ice and moving north with the current. Parts of the edge of the shorefast ice are starting to break off. Temperatures have been above freezing this past week so the snow cover on the shore fast ice is melting.