National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2017

Return of warm conditions in the southeastern Bering Sea: Physics to fluorescence

Stabeno, P.J., J.T. Duffy-Anderson, L.B. Eisner, E.V. Farley, R.A. Heintz, and C.W. Mordy

PLoS ONE, 12(9), e0185464, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0185464, Open access (2017)

From 2007 to 2013, the southeastern Bering Sea was dominated by extensive sea ice and below-average ocean temperatures. In 2014 there was a shift to reduced sea ice on the southern shelf and above-average ocean temperatures. These conditions continued in 2015 and 2016. During these three years, the spring bloom at mooring site M4 (57.9°N, 168.9°W) occurred primarily in May, which is typical of years without sea ice. At mooring site M2 (56.9°N, 164.1°W) the spring bloom occurred earlier especially in 2016. Higher chlorophyll fluorescence was observed at M4 than at M2. In addition, these three warm years continued the pattern near St. Matthew Island of high concentrations (>1 μM) of nitrite occurring during summer in warm years. Historically, the dominant parameters controlling sea-ice extent are winds and air temperature, with the persistence of frigid, northerly winds in winter and spring resulting in extensive ice. After mid-March 2014 and 2016 there were no cold northerly or northeasterly winds. Cold northerly winds persisted into mid-April in 2015, but did not result in extensive sea ice south of 58°N. The apparent mechanism that helped limit ice on the southeastern shelf was the strong advection of warm water from the Gulf of Alaska through Unimak Pass. This pattern has been uncommon, occurring in only one other year (2003) in a 37-year record of estimated transport through Unimak Pass. During years with no sea ice on the southern shelf (e.g. 2001–2005, 2014–2016), the depth-averaged temperature there was correlated to the previous summers ocean temperature.

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