National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2019

Distributed Biological Observatory Region 1: Physics, chemistry and plankton in the northern Bering Sea

Stabeno, P.J., S.W. Bell, N.A. Bond, D.G. Kimmel, C.W. Mordy, and M.E. Sullivan

Deep-Sea Res. II, 162, 8–21, doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2018.11.006, View online (2019)

Historically, the northern Bering Sea has been largely ice covered for 5–6 months each year. From 1980 to 2014, there was considerable variability in the timing of ice arrival and retreat, but there was no significant trend in these variables. During three of the last four years (2014–2015, 2016–2017, 2017–2018) ice has arrived later and retreated earlier, resulting in a shorter ice season. These changes may be related to the delayed arrival of sea ice in the Chukchi Sea, under the paradigm that the Chukchi Sea freezes before the northern Bering Sea. Under such a sequence of events, the continued delay in arrival of sea ice in the Chukchi Sea will in turn delay the arrival of ice in the northern (and hence southern) Bering Sea; thus, past predictions that the northern Bering Sea will remain cold for the foreseeable future may be in question. In the northern Bering Sea, periods of 10–15 years with extensive ice in December and January are interrupted by shorter periods (2–5 years) of less extensive ice cover. The periods of low ice cover in December and January in the northern Bering Sea tend to coincide with periods of low ice cover in March and April in the southern Bering Sea. Sea ice impacts the marine ecosystem in multiple ways: early retreat of sea ice is correlated with warmer sea surface temperatures in the summer; delayed arrival of sea ice results in warmer bottom temperatures in fall and winter; multiple, consecutive years of extensive ice appear to be related to decreasing salinity and nutrients (nitrate and phosphate); and the timing of ice retreat influences the life cycle of Calanus spp. as warmer waters increase their development rate.

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