National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2019

Extreme conditions in the Bering Sea (2017-2018): Record breaking low sea-ice extent

Stabeno, P.J., and S.W. Bell

Geophys. Res. Lett., 46(15), 8952–8959, doi: 10.1029/2019GL083816, View online (2019)

The lowest winter‐maximum areal sea‐ice coverage on record (1980–2019) in the Bering Sea occurred in the winter of 2017/2018. Sea ice arrived late due to warm southerly winds in November. More typical northerly winds (albeit warm) in December and January advanced the ice, but strong, warm southerlies in February and March forced the ice to retreat. The cold pool (shelf region with bottom water < 2 °C) was the smallest on record, because of two related mechanisms: (1) lack of direct cooling in winter by melting sea ice and (2) weaker vertical stratification (no ice melt reduced the vertical salinity gradient) allowing surface heating to penetrate into the near bottom water during summer. February 2019 exhibited another outbreak of warm southerly winds forcing ice to retreat. The number of >31‐day outbreaks of southerly winds in winter has increased since 2016.

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