Divergent patterns of recent sea ice cover across the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas of the Pacific Arctic Region
Over the past three decades of the observed satellite record, there have been significant changes in sea ice cover across the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas of the Pacific Arctic Region (PAR). Satellite data reveal that patterns in sea ice cover have been spatially heterogeneous, with significant declines in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, yet more complex multi-year variability in the Bering Sea south of St. Lawrence Island. These patterns in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas have intensified since 2000, indicating a regime shift in sea ice cover across the northern portion of the PAR. In particular, satellite data over 1979-2012 reveal localized decreases in sea ice presence of up to -1.64. days/year (Canada Basin) and -1.24. days/year (Beaufort Sea), which accelerated to up to -6.57. days/year (Canada Basin) and -12.84. days/year (Beaufort Sea) over the 2000-2012 time period. In contrast, sea ice in the Bering Sea shows more complex multi-year variability with localized increases in sea ice presence of up to +8.41. days/year since 2000. The observed increases in sea ice cover since 2000 in the southern Bering Sea shelf region are observed in wintertime, whereas sea ice losses in the Canada Basin and Beaufort Sea have occurred during summer. We further compare sea ice variability across the region with the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) wind and air temperature fields to determine the extent to which this recent variability is driven by thermal vs. wind-driven processes. Results suggest that for these localized areas that are experiencing the most rapid shifts in sea ice cover, those in the Beaufort Sea are primarily wind driven, those offshore in the Canada Basin are primarily thermally driven, and those in the Bering Sea are influenced by elements of both. Sea ice variability (and its drivers) across the PAR provides critical insight into the forcing effects of recent shifts in climate and its likely ultimate profound impacts on ecosystem productivity across all trophic levels.
Progress in Oceanography
Frey, Karen E.; Moore, G. W.K.; Cooper, Lee W.; and Grebmeier, Jacqueline M., "Divergent patterns of recent sea ice cover across the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas of the Pacific Arctic Region" (2015). Geography. 216.