‘Startling’ climate related changes in bering sea

TVNZ: Pace of Bering Sea changes startles scientists

In February, southwest winds brought warm air and turned thin sea ice into “snow cone ice” that melted or blew off. When a storm pounded Norton Sound, water on Feb. 12 surged up the Yukon River and into Kotlik, flooding low-lying homes. Lifelong resident Philomena Keyes, 37, awoke to knee-deep water outside her house.

“This is the first I experienced in my life, a flood that happened in the winter, in February,” Keyes said in a phone interview.
Winter storm surge flooding is the latest indication that something’s off-kilter around the Bering Strait, the gateway from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean.

Rapid, profound changes tied to high atmospheric temperatures, a direct result of climate change, may be reordering the region’s physical makeup. Ocean researchers are asking themselves if they’re witnessing the transformation of an ecosystem.

The Bering Sea last winter saw record-low sea ice. Climate models predicted less ice, but not this soon, said Seth Danielson, a physical oceanographer at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“The projections were saying we would’ve hit situations similar to what we saw last year, but not for another 40 or 50 years,” Danielson said.

The Bering Sea and the Bering Strait.

Encyclopaedia Britannica: Bering Sea and Strait

IFL Science:  Shocking Images Released By NOAA Show Just How Little Ice Is In The Bering Sea Right Now

Ice coverage between the Bering Strait and the coast of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in the most recent photo is, at best, scant. This, says NASA, could soon be the “new normal”.

Climate specialist Rick Thoman, from the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said that this year’s maximum ice extent is the lowest on record. Lower, even, than 2018’s – which, at the time, was deemed “unprecedented”.

As IFLScience reported at the time, ice cover at the end of April 2018 was at a measly 10 percent of normal seasonal levels.

Inside Climate:  Global Warming Is Pushing Arctic Toward ‘Unprecedented State,’ Research Shows

Global warming is transforming the Arctic, and the changes have rippled so widely that the entire biophysical system is shifting toward an “unprecedented state,” an international team of researchers concludes in a new analysis of nearly 50 years of temperature readings and changes across the ecosystems.

Arctic forests are turning into bogs as permafrost melts beneath their roots. The icy surface that reflects the sun’s radiation back into space is darkeningand sea ice cover is declining. Warmth and moisture trapped by greenhouse gases are pumping up the water cycle, swelling rivers that carry more sediment and nutrients to the sea, which can change ocean chemistry and affect the coastal marine food chain. And those are just a few of the changes.

The researchers describe how warming in the Arctic, which is heating up 2.4 times faster than the Northern Hemisphere average, is triggering a cascade of changes in everything from when plants flower to where fish and other animal populations can be found.

Together, the changes documented in the study suggest the effects on the region are more profound than previously understood.

One of the risks with earlier climate predictions is that they could have easily under-predicted degree and rate of climate change effects as they could have over-predicted them.