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

Near St. Lawrence Island

Over the past week the St. Lawrence Island area has experienced a major seasonal melt of the ice pack near the island. The ice remaining within shallow bays and inlets is no longer shorefast and is melting rapidly. Open water to very open pack ice lies to the north of the island and a roughly 5 to 8 mile wide belt of ice is floating near the southern coastline with open water beyond. Other belts of sea ice are rapidly melting and drifting within the northern Bering Sea as well.

Wales to Shishmaref

The southern Chukchi Sea has also experienced a major seasonal melt of the ice pack this past week. The Bering Strait and southern Chukchi Sea up to roughly 68ºN are mainly open water with the remaining ice located near the shorelines. Shorefast ice is still present along part of the coast with the ice extent varying from 14 miles off Ikpek to 6 miles off Mugisitokiwik. Ice within the bays and north of Shishmaref is no longer shorefast. Beyond the outer edges of the shorefast ice lies an area of close pack ice 5 to 15 miles wide that is moving along the shorefast ice edge as the fast ice continues to become unstable.

5 to 10 Day Forecast

Low pressure over the Bering Sea Friday, 14 June, will bring south winds of 15 to 25 mph (10 to 20 knots) through Saturday. The southerly flow will keep the southern Chukchi Sea open and will continue to shift free-floating belts of ice to the north within the northern Bering Sea. High pressure will settle in from the North along the northern coast of Alaska Sunday with variable winds of 15 mph (~10 knots). High pressure will remain over northern Alaska along with high pressure increasing over the Bering Sea. Winds will turn to the north and northwest Monday and remain from this direction through Friday, 21 June. Speeds will range from 10 to 20 mph (5 to 15 knots). During this period of northerly wind flow the main ice pack in the Chukchi Sea will spread out into the area that is currently open water. Expect remaining shorefast ice to become increasingly unstable during this time.

A weak low-pressure system is anticipated to work through eastern Siberia Saturday and Sunday, 22-23 June, with wind becoming southerly at 15 to 20 mph (10 to 15 knots). The southerly flow will shift the ice pack in the southern Chukchi Sea back to the north, increasing the area of open water once again. High pressure is expected to return by Monday, 24 June, with light (<15 mph or <10 knots) and variable winds. Overall, expect remaining shorefast ice to become increasingly unstable, and remaining ice floating in strips and belts near St. Lawrence Island to continue to melt during this time period.

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

17 June 2013 - Curtis Nayokpuk

All boats and snowmobiles are off the ice. Shorefast ice is now rotting in place and unstable for travel. No ice free access by boats to open sea and hunters are waiting for barrier island channels (east) to open up through coastal ice to hunt farther out in pack ice. Low tides are also limiting travel along the coast or lagoon.