Skip to main content

Cascade of extreme events transforming Bering Sea, challenging communities

Unprecedentedly low sea ice cover in the northern Bering and Chukchi seas during back-to-back winters from 2018 to 2019 caused a cascade of impacts that abruptly transformed the regional marine ecosystem, compounding challenges faced by the communities that rely on it.

A new paper authored by scientists from  NOAA Research, NOAA Fisheries and the University of Alaska examined how the loss of sea ice delivered an ecological shock to the Bering Strait ecosystem, superimposed on the longer-term warming trend of the northern Bering and Chukchi seas. No coastal community in northern or western Alaska remains untouched by the recent suite of changes. The paper was recently published in the AMS journal Weather, Climate and Society.

The research, led by James Overland, an oceanographer at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory tracked the cascade of change brought on by the sudden retreat of Bering Sea ice, driven by jet stream meanders, storms, abnormal southerly winds and warmer sea temperatures.

Click to read the full article