National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2006

Change in the Arctic influence on Bering Sea climate during the twentieth century

Wang, M., J.E. Overland, D.B. Percival, and H.O. Mofjeld

Int. J. Climatol., 26(4), 531–539, doi: 10.1002/joc.1278 (2006)

Surface air temperatures (SAT) from three Alaskan weather stations in a north-south section (Barrow, Nome, and St. Paul) show that on a decadal scale, the correlation among the stations changed during the past century. Before the 1960s, Barrow and Nome were dominated by Arctic air masses and St. Paul was dominated by North Pacific maritime air masses. After the 1960s, the SAT correlation in winter between Barrow and St. Paul increased from 0.2 to 0.7 and between Nome and St. Paul from 0.4 to 0.8, implying greater north-south penetration of both air masses. The correlation change in the winter of the Barrow-St. Paul pair is significant at a 95% confidence level. The Nome-St. Paul pair in spring also shows some of this characteristic change in correlation. Relatively stable, high correlations are found among the stations in the fall; correlations are low in the summer. Our study shows a change in the climatological structure of the Bering Sea in the late twentieth century, at present of unknown origin and occurring earlier than the well-known 1976/1977 shift. These climatological results further support the concept that the southeast Bering Sea ecosystem may have been dominated by Arctic species for most of the century, with a gradual replacement by sub-Arctic species in the last 30 years.

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