“Bering Sea Ice Hasn’t Been This Low in at Least 5,500 Years”

“The Arctic has seen some weird happenings as the climate crisis reshapes the region, but among the most dramatic was what happened in winter 2018 in the Bering Sea. Despite the inky black days, ice began to peel back from the coast in February. By May, the sea ice cover was basically completely gone a month ahead of schedule.

That alone is disturbing enough, but new research shows the event was even more bizarre than we thought. According to the findings, published in Science Advances on Wednesday, the Bering Sea hasn’t seen a winter like 2018 in at least 5,500 years. The study also shows that the world may have locked in irreversible changes that will leave the sea completely ice-free this century.

Miriam Jones, a paleoclimate researcher at the U.S. Geological Survey, led the new research, but it came about thanks to a whole other line of inquiry. St. Matthew Island sits smack dab in the middle of the Bering Sea and is home to a population of Arctic foxes. David Klein, an emeritus professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, had been studying the foxes and their impact on the island’s bird population for years, occasionally hitching a ride to the island with wildlife managers from the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.”

Brian Kahn reports for Earther September 2, 2020.