The Associated Press ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Sea ice along northern Alaska disappeared far earlier than normal this spring, alarming coastal residents who rely on wildlife and fish.
Ice melted as a result of exceptionally warm ocean temperatures, the Anchorage Daily News reported .
The early melting has been “crazy,” said Janet Mitchell of Kivalina. Hunters from her family in early June traveled more than 80 kilometers by boat to find bearded seals on sea ice. Bearded seals in the past could be hunted just outside the village but sea ice had receded far to the north.
“We didn’t know if we’d have our winter food,” she said. “That was scary.”
The hunters ran out of gas after harvesting eight seals and a walrus. They were able to call other residents to deliver fuel, Mitchell said.
Rick Thoman, a climatologist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment & Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, posted on social media last week that the northern Bering and southern Chukchi seas are “baking.”
Sea surface temperatures last week were as high as 5 C above the 1981-2010 average, reaching around 17 C, he said, with effects on the climate system, food web, communities and commerce. Kotzebue and Norton sounds were warmest but the heat extended far out into the ocean.
The warmth is weeks ahead of schedule and part of a “positive feedback loop” compounded by climate change. Rising ocean temperatures have led to less sea ice, which leads to warmer ocean temperatures, he said.Speech