National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2009

Retrospective analysis of sea surface temperature in the northern Bering and Chukchi seas

Ladd, C., and J.E. Overland

NOAA Tech. Memo. OAR PMEL-145, NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, WA, 17 pp (2009)

Sea surface temperature (SST) data from the Chukchi and northern Bering seas beginning in the 1920s are analyzed to investigate low-frequency variability. Although surface air temperatures at Nome, AK, and adjacent weather stations show a shift in the late 1930s and a strong warming signal after 1977, spatial variability and sparse oceanic sampling make it impossible to draw robust conclusions regarding low-frequency temporal variability in SST. Given the data at hand, however, there is no conclusive evidence for decadal-scale or regime-shift variability in SST in the northern Bering/Chukchi Sea region during the 20th century, and the data can be considered to be a single climatology. The warmest SSTs ever measured in eastern Bering Strait were obtained in 2004 during a RUSALCA cruise, and the warmest temperatures measured in western Bering Strait were observed in 2006, providing evidence that we are seeing a distinct warm period in the current decade relative to the 20th century. A cruise from 1880 shows SSTs consistent with the 20th-century climatology.

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