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

Near St. Lawrence Island

Satellite imagery shows close pack ice in medium to vast floes surrounding St. Lawrence Island, with high concentrations of new and young sea ice filling in between the floes. The shorefast ice along the northern coastline of the island extends roughly 7 to 13 miles, while the shorefast ice along the southern coastline is mainly limited to the lagoons.

Wales to Shishmaref

Beyond the shorefast ice from Shishmaref up to Kotzebue Sound lies a large polynya 5 to 15 miles wide that has frozen over with new and young sea ice. The shorefast ice extent along the coast varies from 13 miles off Shishmaref to 30 miles off Ikpek to 10 miles off Mugisitokiwik. Close pack ice lies near the Bering Strait and mainly consists of medium to vast floes.

5 to 10 Day Forecast

A low pressure system in the western Bering Sea with high pressure in the Beaufort Sea will result in east winds around 10 knots (15 mph) Friday, 28 March through Saturday the 29th. Later in the weekend, the low will move into Eastern Russia as the high retreats further north with a brief period of light southerly winds (<10 knots or < 15 mph). The next low-pressure system is anticipated to move across the southern Bering Sea on Monday, 31 March and into the Gulf of Alaska by Wednesday, 2 April. Meanwhile, high pressure is building over the Beaufort Sea and Eastern Russia. The winds will pick up from the north to northeast Monday through Wednesday, to 15 to 25 knots (20-30 mph). The low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska works toward the northern Gulf of Alaska coast Friday, 4 April. Overall, low pressure remains over the land area with high pressure over Eastern Russia and the Beaufort Sea on Friday, 4 April through Monday the 7th. Winds will remain from the north at 15 to 20 knots (20-25 mph).

Throughout the period, temperatures will be near normal (below freezing) through Wednesday, 2 April, after which they will drop slightly below normal as the high pressure in Eastern Russia and the Beaufort Sea persists. High concentrations of the thick sea ice floes will have limited movement due to the current sea ice extent in the northern Bering Sea. With the persistent northerly flow, polynyas are possible south of St. Lawrence Island late in the week. Colder temperatures through late week will increase the thickness of new and young sea ice areas.

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 St. Lawrence Island

28 March 2014 - Vera Metcalf, Eskimo Walrus Commission

Savoonga whaling crews are mobilizing equipment, gear, boats, etc. to the south side of St. Lawrence Island as whaling season is about to begin and the south-side conditions are ideal. Gambell hunters reported seeing bowheads already, but ice conditions and wind direction in that area are not suitable right now.

Comments from Nome

26 March 2014 - Fred Tocktoo

Nome's shore ice has been very unstable this winter and we didn't get our shorefast ice late into January. Finally our shore ice was somewhat stable forming less than a quarter of a mile from shore in front of Nome town, in February. Beyond a quarter of a mile from shore, drifting ice is constantly moving back and forth. Less snow fell this winter compared to past years in most of the Seward Peninsula area, with much rain and warmer than normal temperatures.

Comments from Wales

28 March 2014 - Winton Weyapuk, Jr.

Recently we have had extensive pack ice on this side of the Bering Strait with no leads visible. Ponds (small openings in the ice pack) were getting covered overnight with new ice. No one has seen any walrus yet.