, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 45–59 | Cite as

Causes of interannual variability in the sea ice cover of the Eastern Bering Sea

  • Niebauer H. J. 
  • Day Robert H. 


It has been shown that large-scale weather patterns in both the tropical South Pacific (El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, events) and the North Pacific (Pacific-North American, or PNA, patterns) have strong teleconnection effects on the air, ice, and ocean environments of the Bering Sea. This signal apparently comes via the atmosphere and not the ocean. The connection between variability of the Bering Sea and the ENSO and PNA appears to be the winter position of the Aleutian Low. Interannual variability in air temperatures, ice cover, and surface winds in the Bering Sea generally are in phase with each other, whereas sea-surface temperatures (SST) tend to lag these variables by 1–3 months. These Bering Sea time-series are significantly correlated with the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) time-series (an indicator of ENSO events) when the Bering sea data are lagged behind the SOI for up to 18 months. The correlations suggest that warming in the Bering Sea follows negative anomalies in the SOI (i.e., El Niño events). Cooling in the Bering Sea tends to follow positive anomalies (i.e., precursors of El Niños) in the SOI. Maximal correlations for the PNA also lag the SOI by a mouth or two.

Analyses of variance indicate that the SOI can explain 30–40% of the variability in the Bering Sea. Stepwise multiple regressions can explain up to 54% of the variation in air temperatures, up to 39% of the variation in sea ice cover, and up to 46% of the variation in SST in the Bering Sea. PNA and SOI were significant variables only in the equation for air temperatures, indicating a close relationship between them and the atmosphere in the Bering Sea and suggesting that energy is transmitted to the water and ice via the atmosphere. The three variables airtemps, ice, and SST were significant each time they were used as independent variables, indicating a rapid and strong feedback relationship among them.

Three ENSO events have occurred since the mid-1970s, but none have been “typical”. There have been either two positive SOI anomalies preceding an El Niño or there have been none preceding an El Niño. When there has been a positive anomaly, ice cover has been above normal, but neither a positive anomaly nor above-normal ice has occurred in the past two ENSO events. An ice retreat has occurred any time there has been an ENSO event, except in the case of the great El Niño of 1982–1983; the anomalous position of the Aleutian Low at that time explains the lack of response of the ice. Finally, one ice retreat occurred that was unrelated to an ENSO event, but was related to a PNA event.


Interannual Variability Positive Anomaly Southern Oscillation Index ENSO Event Variable Airtemps 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Niebauer H. J. 
    • 1
  • Day Robert H. 
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Marine SciencesUniversity of AlaskaFairbanksUSA

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