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Freezing Temperatures in Early June Slow Ocean Warming in Bering Sea

Despite seeing snow fall across the Norton Sound and Nome earlier this month, summer weather seems to have arrived in Western Alaska.

Climatologist Rick Thoman says seeing snow flurries in Nome in June is not uncommon, but what happened two weeks ago was not so common.

“What was very unusual this year of course is it snowed on multiple days and on at least a couple of those days…accumulation, right in town and that is less common. The most recent time when we had something like this, wasn’t too long ago. In 2013 we had several days of cold weather and snow in June as well.”

– Climatologist Rick Thoman

But, in terms of how colder temperatures at the beginning of this month might affect what is to come for the rest of the summer, Thoman says overall it doesn’t tell us much.

“The impact of this little swirl of cold air, certainly regionally, is that it doesn’t tell us too much about what’s happening in the larger picture; say the Arctic as a whole, or even what does this portend for the upcoming rest of the summer for Western Alaska.”

All it takes though is one week of warm weather in Western Alaska to wipe out the effects of the freezing start to June.

Freezing temperatures lingering into this month in the Bering Strait region have also been helpful in keeping ocean warming down in the Bering Sea. According to a post from Thoman, sea surface temperatures in the Norton Sound are four to six degrees cooler compared to last year at this time during the week of June 4th-12th.

That all points back to the sea ice extent that reached its maximum in March of this year. Although that was still below the historical average according to Thoman, going into this week some Bering Sea ice still remains in different parts of the region.

“And timing is pretty typical for melt out. We do still have ice, especially to the west of St. Lawrence Island, there’s ice around there. That’s not unusual for this time of year, although it may be a little bit more than we typically see. And just like we had last year, there’s also some ice extending to the northeast of St. Lawrence Island.”

Thoman also pointed out the small remnant ice that was pushed up onshore in the Eastern Norton Sound and is currently melting away as warmer weather hits the region this weekend.

Image at top: Sea Ice Coverage as of June 17th, 2021. Photo by National Weather Service.

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