‘Nothing even comes close’: Western Alaska sea ice at lowest extent since 1850, database indicates

A scientist with the National Weather Service said the amount of sea ice off Western Alaska coasts this spring was the lowest in more than 150 years of record-keeping.

The long-term look is based on the online Sea Ice Atlas created in 2014 by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said Rick Thoman, a weather service climate scientist.

The database provides a long-term look at coastal sea ice from sources such as recent satellite data and historical records that include whaler's logs and Danish and Norwegian ship records.

[Amid warm winter, scientists say Alaska sea ice conditions are 'shockingly bad']

There's no record of a February or March like Western Alaska coastal villages just witnessed, with limited to no sea ice, Thoman said.

"Nothing even comes close," he said.

Having open water instead of sea ice outside Little Diomede Island in the Bering Strait is unheard of for February, but waves pummeled the village of Diomede in one storm caught on a video that made headlines, said Thoman.


Other coastal villages also had waves where there should have been coastal sea ice, he said.

"I have very high confidence saying there's never been a February like this, back to 1850," he said.

Or March, for that matter.

The sea ice in March never extended to St. Matthew Island, more than 300 miles west of Bethel in the Bering Sea. There's no record that has ever happened.

"Typically sea ice gets well south of St. Matthew Island," he said, often by more than 200 miles.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.