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The Role of Bering Strait in Regulating the Global Climate

65.4N 169.9W

June 18th, 2013 Category: Climate Change AVHRRMetOp

Russia and USA – June 17th, 2013

Alaska’s Bering Strait may play a critical role in the regulation of the global climate — including a knack for maintaining the Atlantic Ocean “conveyor belt” that bathes northern Europe in sultry currents and warm wet weather.

But squeeze shut the 53-mile-wide narrows between the Pacific and Arctic oceans off the western tip of Alaska — something that occurred during the last ice age when continental ice sheets locked up much of the world’s fresh water — and the oceanic engine that stabilizes the home planet’s climate becomes much more likely to go on the fritz and stay that way for a long time.

These resulting shutdowns have previously stalled the Gulf Stream and triggered abrupt swings between warmer and frigid climates, what scientists call Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich events. These jarring shifts struck the North Atlantic as many as 25 times between 80,000 and about 11,000 years ago, all during moments when the Bering Land Bridge blocked all flow between Pacific and Arctic oceans.

The flow of the Gulf Stream and other elements of the global ocean circulation system deliver warm salty water to the North Atlantic, where it cools, grows denser, and sinks. At depth, this dense salty water starts flowing south. It then keeps rolling, eventually crawling into other hemispheres along a network of deep ocean currents that meander the globe over hundreds of years while equalizing the climate.

But introduce massive amounts of less dense fresh water into the mix, and the North Atlantic sinking starts to sputter, slowing the deep currents to the point where they temporarily die. The paradoxical result can be a chilldown of northern Europe and perhaps the entire northern hemisphere. Thus, smooth functioning of the Atlantic ocean “conveyor” becomes a “critical link” in keeping the world’s climate from making these wild swings (click here for more information).

Bering Strait Clear of Ice as Summer Begins in the Northern Hemisphere

65.7N 167.8W

June 30th, 2009 Category: Snapshots

Bering Strait - June 24th, 2009

Bering Strait - June 24th, 2009

The Bering Strait, approximately 53 miles (85 km) wide, separates Russia’s Chukotka Autonomous Okrug from Alaska, USA. It connects the Arctic and Pacific Oceans by joining the Chukchi Sea (part of the former) and the Bering Sea (part of the latter).

Much of the snow that was covering the Russian and Alaskan terrain about six weeks ago (click here for previous article) has melted. Also, the strait is now clear of icebergs from melting sea ice.

The Bering Strait between Russia and the USA

May 14th, 2009 Category: Snapshots

Bering Strait - May 11th, 2009

Bering Strait - May 11th, 2009

The Bering Strait is a sea strait between Cape Dezhnev in Russia‘s Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, the easternmost point of the Asian continent, and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, USA, the westernmost point of the North American continent.

Here, the land on the Russian side is still mostly covered by snow, while that on the Alaskan side is beginning to thaw further inland.

The Bering Strait is approximately 53 miles (85 km) wide, with an average depth of 30–50 meters (98–160 ft). It connects the Chukchi Sea (part of the Arctic Ocean) in the north with the Bering Sea (part of the Pacific Ocean) in the south.

Icebergs from melting sea ice can be seen floating in the waters in and around the strait. With a latitude of about 65° 40′ north, the strait lies slightly south of the polar circle.

Cloud Streets Above Bering Sea

March 30th, 2009 Category: Snapshots

Clouds below Bering Strait - March 24th, 2009

Clouds below Bering Strait - March 24th, 2009

Cloud streets are rows of cumulus or cumulus-type clouds aligned parallel to the low-level wind. Here, many are visible above the Bering Sea, between Russia and Alaska.

The most favorable conditions for their formation occur when the lowermost layer of air is unstable, but is capped by an inversion-by a stable layer of air.

This often occurs when upper air is subsiding, such as under anticyclonic conditions, and is also frequently found when radiation fog has formed overnight.

Convection occurs below the inversion, with air rising in thermals below the clouds and sinking in the air between the streets.