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

Near St. Lawrence Island

Persistent northerly flow near St. Lawrence Island has allowed compact pack ice to close in along the northern coastline, extending 25 to 35 miles from the shoreline. Beyond the compact pack ice to the north and northwest lies a large region of open pack ice stretching to the Russian coastline up to the north near the Bering Strait. Shorefast ice remains within the barrier islands along the southern shoreline of St. Lawrence Island with a large polyna extending up to 80 miles to the south. Low concentrations of new ice may be forming within the polyna due to the cold air temperatures, and strips of broken off shorefast ice have been seen on satellite imagery along the southeast shoreline.

Wales to Shishmaref

The satellite view and reports from the field suggest that shorefast ice remains stable at this time along the northwest Seward Peninsula, however the ice has been documented to be thinner than average for the past 6 years with fewer ridges present in the shorefast ice field. The shorefast ice extent along the coast varies from 5 miles off Shishmaref to 20 miles off Ikpek to 12 miles off Mugisitokiwik. Northerly flow has opened a large polyna along the southern coastline of the Seward Peninsula stretching from Wales to Shaktoolik. A smaller polyna has formed along the coastline from Point Hope to Kivalina. Very close pack ice consisting of first year thin to first year thick ice remains north of the Bering Strait.

5 to 10 Day Forecast

High pressure will remain over the Bering Sea extending into the Chukchi Sea through Saturday, 4 May, with north winds of 5 to 15 mph (5 to 10 knots). Polynas along southern coastlines will remain open and expand through the 4th. A low-pressure system will enter the area Sunday, 5 May, increasing winds from the southwest to 15 to 25 mph (10 to 20 knots). The low will move out quickly on Monday the 6th with light winds prevailing. Another, stronger low-pressure system will move into eastern Russia Tuesday and move into the Arctic Ocean by Thursday, 9 May. Winds during this period will increase to 20 to 35 mph (20 to 30 knots) from the southwest. Expect polynas along southern coastlines to quickly close in with pack ice Sunday-Thursday, May 5-9. During this time the compact ice along the northern coastline of St. Lawrence Island will spread out to the north opening leads and a polyna near the northern coastline. The low moves out of the area Friday, 10 April, with lighter west winds prevailing at 10 to 15 mph (5 to 10 knots). Yet another low will move into Siberia Saturday with west winds increasing to 15 to 20 mph (10 to 15 knots). High pressure will build back into the Bering Sea Sunday and Monday, 12 and 13 May, resulting in variable light winds less than 15 mph (10 knots). During the period of lighter winds expect polynas to rapidly freeze over with new sea ice with pack ice drifting mainly with the ocean currents.

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 St. Lawrence Island Wales to Shishmaref

Observations and Comments

Observations of Sea Ice Development

Comments from Nome

3 May 2013 - Fred Tocktoo, NPS

It's been a slow spring for Nome, with temps not going higher than 36F except for just a few hours late in the afternoon, only a few days at a time. Shorefast ice is still pretty healthy with moving ice about three miles from the shore ice. People are hunting bearded seals, but in open waters east of Cape Nome. The river systems are starting to show that it's spring but it is colder this year than in the past several years. The shorefast ice should be breaking up within two weeks, but with this colder spring it might linger until the end of May.

Comments from Wales

2 May 2013 - Amos Oxereok

View from atop Cape Mountain looking northwest over the landfast ice and distant floating pack near Wales:

2 May 2013 view from atop Cape Mountain looking northwest
2 May 2013 view from atop Cape Mountain looking northwest. Photo courtesy of Amos Oxereok.

Comments from Gambell

29 April 2013 - DeAnna Von Halle, NPS ranger at the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve*

Westward view from Gambell:

29 April 2013 view from Gambell
29 April 2013 view from Gambell looking west. Photo courtesy of DeAnna Von Halle, NPS.