The southeastern Bering Sea shelf has warmed markedly over the last decade. In addition, sea-ice concentration, duration and maximum extent have decreased. Whether these trends continue is clearly dependent upon the large-scale weather patterns, particularly the origin, magnitude and direction of the winds during winter and also the timing of the spring and fall transitions. While warmer ocean temperatures can delay the arrival of ice, if strong arctic winds persist over the shelf for a sufficiently long time, sea ice can and will be advected over M2.
A distant factor that also must be considered is the decrease of ice concentration in the Arctic. Since ice formation in the Bering requires strong, cold winds out of the north, the lack of ice in the Arctic Ocean will impact the air temperature and thus the magnitude of the heat flux between the Bering Sea and the atmosphere. It seems reasonable that the western Arctic must freeze before the Bering Sea can freeze. The amount of ice in the Arctic during summer has decreased over the last decade, and there are predictions that it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future (Stroeve et al., 2005). If these predictions prove true, ice concentrations in the Bering also should decrease.
While the Bering Sea shelf has warmed over the last decade, the mechanisms that control this change in temperature are difficult to quantify. Syntheses using the data presented here will provide the foundation for a knowledgeable forecast of how future changes in climate will impact this ecosystem, its living marine resources and protected marine species. Changes in the physical environment can and will trigger changes in the Bering Sea ecosystem.
While NOAA has provided support each year additional funding has been provided by Coastal Ocean Program’s Bering Sea FOCI (1995), Southeast Bering Sea Carrying Capacity (SEBSCC: 1996–2001), the International Arctic Research Center and the Cooperative Institute for Arctic Research (IARC: 1999–2001), the Pollock Conservancy (2002) and North Pacific Research Board (2002–2005). Without this critical support the moorings could not have been maintained. We particularly thank the officers and crew of the NOAA ship Miller Freeman, W. Parker, W. Floering, C. Dewitt for deploying and recovering the moorings, and D. Kachel and D. Pashinski for processing the data. The comments from two anonymous reviewers were extremely helpful. This publication is partially funded by the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) under NOAA Cooperative Agreement No. NA17RJ1232, Contribution # 1235. "This paper was first presented in the GLOBEC-ESSAS Symposium on "Effects of climate variability on sub-arctic marine ecosystems," hosted by PICES in Victoria, BC, May 2005."
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