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

Near St. Lawrence Island

Sea ice conditions near St. Lawrence Island have continued to decline this week. Sea ice within the lagoons around the island is no longer shorefast. Niyakpak Lagoon has surface and near shore melting with open water conditions and an isolated first year strip of ice off the coastline from the lagoon. From Camp Iveetok over to Tomname Lagoon and Camp Kalowiye the ice near shore is melting from the coastline out with surface meltwater ponds forming. Very open pack is drifting past the coast near Camp Kalowiye, with open water beyond the isolated area. To the south of the island within the lagoons the sea ice continues to slowly melt in place with meltwater ponds forming on the ice surface. Much of the island is surrounded by sea ice free or open water conditions at this time.

Wales to Shishmaref

Much of the previously shorefast sea ice along the coast from Wales up to Shishmaref broke off from the coastline this past week. At this time the remaining sea ice is rotting in place along coastal areas with a lot of meltwater on the remaining ice surfaces. The furthest extent of the remaining ice near the coast extends roughly 2 miles off the coast near Shishmaref. The remainder of the ice near the coast is confined to the lagoons.

Beyond the lagoons from Mugisitokiwik to Shishmaref lies an area roughly 3 to 5 miles wide of very open pack consisting of first year ice floes. Beyond that area from Shishmaref down through the Bering Strait past Wales lies a region of very close pack ice that has consolidated in recent days.

5 to 10 Day Forecast

Weather System/Wind Synopsis

With low pressure in the southwest Bering Sea, winds across the Bering Strait and near St. Lawrence Island will be from the southeast at 15 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) on Friday the 22nd of May. The main low pressure system will remain predominantly in the southwest Bering Sea with some wiggle back and forth through Wednesday the 27th of May. Winds on Saturday the 23rd will increase a bit to southeast at 25 to 30 kt (30 to 35 mph) then decrease to 15 to 25 kt (20 to 30 mph) on Sunday the 24th of May and remain in that range through Tuesday the 26th. Winds will back off to 10 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) from the east on Wednesday the 27th of May as high pressure starts to increase in the Beaufort Sea. With high pressure continuing to build in the Beaufort Sea and low pressure moving into the central Aleutian Islands, variable winds of 10 to 15 kt through the Bering Strait are expected on Thursday the 28th of May. At St. Lawrence Island, winds will be east to southeast at 15 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) on Thursday the 28th. High pressure moves closer to the northwest coast of Alaska on Friday the 29th turning the winds to the northeast at 15 to 20 kt (20 to 25 mph) for Friday and Saturday (the 29th and 30th of May). By Sunday the 31st of May, the high pressure has strengthened as the northeast winds increased to 20 to 25 kt (25 to 30 mph) and will remain at this strength through Monday the 1st of June.

Temperature Trend & Ice Forecast

Temperatures will be around 5 to 10 degrees above normal with daytime temperatures around 40 to 50° F. Overnight temperatures in the 30s are anticipated. Temperatures will dip closer to normal toward the end of the period with the northeast winds present. Daytime temperatures from Friday the 29th to Monday the 1st of June will be range from 35 to 45°F. Overnight temperatures will dip into the 25 to 35°F range.

The wind direction will be generally out of the east through much of the week. Therefore, we expect that sea and lagoon ice will destabilize or melt in place along the coastline of St. Lawrence Island. Open water and sea ice free areas surrounding Saint Lawrence Island are expected to continue expanding, with isolated first year ice floes drifting offshore near the north and east coastlines of the island.

During this time the remaining coastal ice outside of the lagoons along the coast from Wales to Shishmaref is expected to destabilize while sea ice remaining within the lagoons continues to melt in place. Compact ice floes near Wales and through the eastern Bering Strait will shift and spread out to the west, decreasing in concentration within the Bering Strait and toward Russia. Meltwater ponds will continue to form on remaining first year ice in the Bering Strait region due to the warmer temperatures during this period, and moderate ice melt will occur in general across the Bering Strait region.

At the end of next week, Friday the 29th through Monday the 1st of June, winds will be from the northeast. During this timeframe, we expect low concentration ice floes to move out of the Chukchi through the Bering Strait toward St. Lawrence Island.

Marine forecast for the West Coast and Arctic Coast

Remote Sensing Images

Bering Strait St. Lawrence Island Wales to Shishmaref

Observations and Comments

Observations of Sea Ice Development

Observations from Shishmaref

27 May 2015 - Curtis Nayokpuk

Swells are breaking up the shorefast ice, and the remaining ice in front of Shishmaref is holding with grounded ridges as seen at boat launch areas. It's a very good season for bearded seals with clear sky and calm winds this past week. Drying racks are filling up. No walrus yet, though.

25 May 2015 - Shorefast ice in Shishmaref. Photo courtesy of Curtis Nayokpuk.
25 May 2015 - Shorefast ice in Shishmaref. Photo courtesy of Curtis Nayokpuk.

Observations from Wales

26 May 2015 - Amos Oxereok

Our shore ice is going right now. As soon as the weather clears, we can launch from shore and I’ll be able to go see what the ice is like out there. Yesterday, I noticed a swell as the water started lapping up on shore and thought that might mean that we were about to lose our ice.

23 May 2015 - Ice off the coast of Wales. Photo courtesy of Amos Oxereok.
23 May 2015 - Ice off the coast of Wales. Photo courtesy of Amos Oxereok.

22 May 2015 - Winton Weyapuk Jr.

Today we have pack ice moving north with the current with a lead 1/2 mile wide along the shorefast ice. The pack ice is slightly ridged and is quite extensive and fairly tightly packed. No walrus have been seen as of yet on this side of the strait.

Observations from Nome

26 May 2015 - Fred Tocktoo

Shore ice is gone, however, there are still ice flows about twenty miles out from Nome's shores moving north towards the Bering Straight. We are getting some ocean waves which indicates that most of the Norton Sound ice is about gone.

26 May 2015 - Boogles Johnson

I've been waiting for some prop parts for my boat, but I heard that crews were able to successfully land some bull walrus 12 miles out front of Nome three days ago. There was at least one crew that went to King Island two days ago and was successful. The walrus are already up to Wales as of yesterday, and there have been successful crews there. I think that I will be too late this year to find any walrus due to the ice leaving so quickly.