Fairbanks, AK, United States (VoA) – Open water has replaced sea ice in much of the Bering Sea off Alaska’s west coast, leaving villages vulnerable to powerful winter storms and adding challenges to Alaska Native hunters seeking marine mammals, an expert said Monday.
Rick Thoman of the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment & Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks said that winter storms over five weeks obliterated thin ice that had formed since December.
Wind blew ice to Russian beaches in the west and to the south side of Norton Sound south of Nome but left open water all the way to Chukchi Sea north of the Bering Strait.
“You can take your sailboat from Dillingham to Diomede today,” he said.
Sea ice historically covers much of the Bering Sea throughout the winter with maximum coverage through March. Kotzebue Sound, a great bay northeast of the Bering Strait, already has open water, an occurrence normally seen in June.
It’s the second consecutive winter for low sea ice. Last year, it was low all season. This winter, a warm November was followed by a cold December and January, Thoman said.
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