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

Near St. Lawrence Island

Satellite imagery shows a polynya along the southern coastline of St. Lawrence Island with a width of 5 to 40 miles. Close pack ice composed of medium to vast floes lies off Gambell’s western coast with new and young sea ice in between the floes. Beyond the shorefast ice along the northern coastline lies very close pack ice composed of medium to vast floes with high concentrations of young ice between the floes. The shorefast ice along the northern coastline of the island extends roughly 5 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 there is a polynya 2 to 6 miles wide that has frozen over with young and new sea ice. The shorefast ice extent along the coast varies from 15 miles off Shishmaref to 30 miles off Ikpek to 10 miles off Mugisitokiwik. A polynya lies beyond the shorefast ice extent from Ikpek to York. The polynya is 1 to 10 miles wide and is freezing over with new and young sea ice. Close pack ice lies near the Bering Strait and mainly consists of medium to vast floes.

5 to 10 Day Forecast

A strong low-pressure system along the Eastern Aleutians Friday, 4 April combined with high pressure over Eastern Russia will bring moderate to strong northerly winds through the Bering Strait and northern Bering Sea (20 to 30 kt, 25 to 35 mph). The low will transition into the Gulf of Alaska over the weekend with the high pressure over Eastern Russia breaking into the Bering Sea. This will result in lighter west to northwest winds (10 to 20 kt, 15 to 25 mph) by Sunday. The high pressure continues to move across the Bering Strait into the mainland Monday, 7 April with light southerly winds (10 kt, 15 mph). High pressure remains over Eastern Russia into the Arctic Sea through the remainder of the week with light and variable winds (10 kt, 15 mph). Into next weekend, 12-14 April, low pressure moves into the southern Bering Sea making for strong northeast winds (10 to 20 kt, 15 to 25 mph).

During the forecast period, temperatures are anticipated to be around 10 degrees below normal through Wednesday, 9 April. These cold temperatures will allow for the rapid development of new and young ice between large ice floes in exposed areas. High concentrations of thick sea ice floes will shift around with the changing winds in the northern Bering Sea around St. Lawrence Island. With the northerly flow into this weekend, polynyas south of St. Lawrence Island will expand and are expected to persist through the next 10 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

28 March 2014 - Curtis Nayokpuk

The forecast for the next few days is northerly winds, a rare wind for our area these days. We had E-SE winds all winter resulting in ice forming and blowing offshore so there is very thin sea ice along our shores. Hope the northerly wind will pile up ice to anchor what we see out front.