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

Near St. Lawrence Island

A large polyna along the southern coastline of St. Lawrence Island stretches up to 45 miles wide, but is filling in and will continue to do so this week with southerly winds. Close pack ice lies in the region beyond the polyna consisting of young, first year, and new sea ice. The close pack ice along the northern coastline of the island is drifting offshore due to the southerly winds and has opened a polyna. Much of the northern Bering Sea is open water or very open pack ice. Shorefast ice is continuing to become unstable and is breaking off.

Wales to Shishmaref

Very close to close pack ice remains just beyond the shorefast ice along the coastline from Wales to Shishmaref. Leads are present in the pack ice with most oriented parallel to the coastline. The Bering Strait is mainly open water and the southern Chukchi Sea is filled with open pack ice to close pack ice. The shorefast ice extent varies from 2 miles near Shishmaref to 14 miles off Ikpek to 13 miles off Mugisitokiwik. The outer edges of the shorefast ice are becoming more unstable. Shorefast ice is beginning to flood near river deltas and melt ponds are forming on the ice.

5 to 10 Day Forecast

A weak low-pressure system will swing through Eastern Siberia Friday with southwest winds of 10 to 20 mph (5 to 15 knots). High pressure will push in from the south through the weekend with low pressure remaining over Russia. These conditions will result in southwest winds of 15 to 30 mph (10 to 25 knots) Saturday through Monday, 8-10 June. High pressure will continue to work into the area Tuesday and Wednesday, 11-12 June, with southwest winds decreasing to 10 to 15 mph (5 to 10 knots). A low-pressure system develops just north of Wrangell Island Friday, 14 June, with southwest winds increasing to 15 to 25 mph (10 to 20 knots) and remaining through the weekend into Monday, 17 June. The persistent southwesterly flow will close the polyna along the southern coastline of St. Lawrence Island and move the close pack ice off the northern coastline to spread out in the northern Bering Sea. Expect remaining shorefast ice along the northern coastline to become increasingly unstable with large floes breaking off through the next ten days. The southwesterly flow will slowly move the close pack ice to the northeast along the shorefast ice from Wales to Shishmaref. The edges of the shorefast ice in this location are becoming increasingly unstable as well and large floes may break off the edge in the next ten days.

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 Shishmaref

9 June 2013 - Curtis Nayokpuk

Figure 1 shows boats and a crew working on a motor while loose ice blocked access to hunting. This launch is four miles north of Shishmaref. Over the last couple of days even with southerly winds the loose ice is not moving out and the trail is deteriorating, so some of us are thinking of hauling our boats to shore in few days. The Wales shoal looks to be breaking up - I assume with wave action from the high South winds and open sea. We might see open water (loose ice moving off) in 3-4 days as satellite pictures show open leads 20 miles west of launch (shoal ice breaking off). The westerly wave swell will crack the thin rotting shore ice and make it unstable to leave our boats at the ice edge. There are very few large ice ridges to keep the shore ice anchored so we hope when the ice breaks up we will have good (close) access to the open sea.

(Figure 1) 9 June 2013, zoomed pic of Shishmaref boat launch
(Figure 1) 9 June 2013, zoomed pic of Shishmaref boat launch

7 June 2013, Shishmaref boat launch
7 June 2013, Shishmaref boat launch

7 June 2013, Shishmaref boat launch
7 June 2013, Shishmaref boat launch