Bering Sea

“…something’s off-kilter around the Bering Strait…”

n 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.

“Giant Hotspot” in Alaskan Waters Attracts Unusual Species

“The Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea have become … unusually warm in a way that has species showing up in very odd places and could have lasting implications for fisheries in both places,” said Michael Milstein of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. “Parts of the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea are close to 5 degrees F higher than average. Warm conditions like this in the past have had effects on fisheries.”

Acidification Impacting Alaska Fisheries

Studies show that red king crab and tanner crab, two important Alaskan fisheries, grow more slowly and don’t survive as well in more acidic waters. Alaska’s coastal waters are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification because of cold water that can absorb more carbon dioxide, and unique ocean circulation patterns which bring naturally acidic deep ocean waters to the surface.