High temperatures bring waves to Bering Strait village

February 28, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Temperatures in some parts of Western Alaska have reached more than 40 degrees above normal this winter, causing waves to encroach on coasts that are usually covered by sea ice.

Social media posts last week showed open water where there’s normally ice in the Bering Strait village of Diomede, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Monday.

A major storm Feb. 20 blew the village’s little ice away, flooding the Diomede’s water treatment plant and knocking out its power.

Tribal coordinator Frances Ozenna said the waves were an amazing change for the village. Ozenna said nobody was expecting the record low sea ice.

“It’s very odd,” Ozenna said. “This is supposed to be the coldest time of the year.”

Ozenna said normally the sea ice grows from January all the way through March. But this year, it’s been unpredictable.

Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist based in Anchorage, said the problem is not just in Diomede. He said the Bering Sea is currently at the lowest level in 40 years.

“You have warm air running over record warm water,” Brettschneider said. “It’s really hard to get sea ice to form in that situation.”

Brettschneider said he wouldn’t be surprised if sea ice levels are significantly higher next year. But he said the overall pattern is clear. “The trend line certainly is bad,” Brettscheinder said.

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