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The Chukchi Sea

The Chukchi Sea extends from Wrangel Island in eastern Siberia to Point Barrow in Alaska. The southern part of the shelf-sea narrows funnel-like towards the Bering Strait and is flanked by the North American Seward Peninsula and the Siberian Chukotska Peninsula. The sea area belongs each roughly 50 percent to Russia and the United States of America, respectively.


The Chukchi Sea floor has a regular bottom surface, which is only little structured by shoals and submarine depressions. Via Bering Strait, the Chukchi Sea water masses are in exchange with the northern Pacific. Warm water masses flow into the Arctic Ocean from southerly directions. The northern part of the Chukchi Sea is wide open towards the central Arctic Ocean.


During winter, channels of open water (polynyas, flaw leads) between fast ice and drifting ice along the Chukchi Sea coastline occur infrequently. The power full, clockwise rotating Beaufort Gyre in the western Arctic pushes pack ice onshore into the Chukchi Sea thereby closing coastal polynyas and significantly reducing initial ice formation over open water.


The Chukchi Sea climate is dominated by Polar and Pacific influences. Thus, during winter coastal areas of the Siberian Chukchi shelf are rather characterized by cold, onshore winds blowing from the North American Arctic. In summer, warm and southerly Pacific weather conditions prevail and the Chukchi Sea mostly becomes ice free a bit earlier than the adjacent Arctic shelf areas.