Bear Glacier shrinkings and floats
Bear Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula floating
on a lake of its own creation, photographed in
2005 by Bruce Molnia, USGS.

This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer at the institute.

Here’s more Alaska-related news from the notebook after a week at the December meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco:

In autumn 2007, temperatures north of Alaska over the Arctic Ocean were about 10 degrees Celsius warmer than longtime averages, and in November there was still open water on the Chukchi Sea.

“These are most likely the largest temperature anomalies on the globe for autumn,” said John Walsh of the International Arctic Research Center during a talk he gave at the conference.

Walsh said that open water on the ocean and the heat it absorbs make the Arctic a real driver of the entire world’s increased warmth during autumn and early winter, and that role will only be enhanced if sea ice on top of the globe continues to decline. He also said the open water at the end of summer may have made the region stormier.

Because the ice-free zone north of Alaska and Siberia persisted well into autumn, the ocean was able to provide the atmosphere with an extra supply of heat and moisture, the perfect ingredients for storms. Walsh said increased turbulent weather caused by open water is what climate models predict and what people observed in the Bering Sea region last fall.

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