Satellite and Oceanographic Observations of the Warm Coastal Current in the Chukchi Sea


  • K. Ahlnäs
  • G.R. Garrison



Atmospheric temperature, Heat budgets, Heat transmission, Ice leads, Infrared remote sensing, Ocean currents, Ocean temperature, Ocean-atmosphere interaction, Satellite photography, Bering Strait, Chukchi Sea


Selected infrared images obtained by the NOAA satellites have increased our understanding of the formation and extent of the Alaskan Coastal Current, a movement of relatively warm water from the vicinity of Bering Strait northward along the Alaskan coast past Point Barrow and eventually into the Arctic Ocean where it disperses. Oceanographic measurements made from an icebreaker during the same period give spot checks on the depth of the warm layer, as well as the outline of a downward trend of the current when it is blocked by the ice. A study of satellite and oceanographic observations over a seven-year period, 1974-1980, reveals many interesting features of the flow and shows the annual variability. The northward flow and the shape of the ice edge are interrelated in that the flow is partially blocked by the ice and the ice is melted by the oncoming warm water. The solar-heated waters in Kotzebue Sound, Norton Sound, and along the coast to the south are seen as a major source of the heat in the coastal current.

Key words: satellite, infrared, temperature, current, ice edge, eddies, oceanography, Chukchi Sea, Bering Strait