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32nd Annual Arctic Workshop Abstracts
March 14-16, 2002
INSTAAR, University of Colorado at Boulder

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SMALL-SCALE DYNAMICS OF SEA ICE IN THE BERING SEA: A REMOTE SENSING AND NUMERICAL MODEL INVESTIGATION

AUTHORS

BUMP, JOSEPH K.. University of Wyoming.
Lovvorn, James R. . University of Wyoming.

Global warming effects on sea-ice/animal relations are of special interest because an array of birds and mammals that depend on sea-ice have declined in recent years. Winter sea ice in the Bering Sea is important habitat for a number of top predators such as seaducks, walruses, seals, and whales. The time-dependent, spatial mosaic of ice and open water is critical to these surface-constrained endotherms for feeding, breathing, resting, escape from predators, and reproduction. Despite the extreme importance of ice conditions to these animals, almost no methods have been developed to characterize the structure of leads (open water areas) from remotely-sensed images to evaluate trends in ice habitat at small scales relevant to these animals. Based on field observations from an icebreaker and analysis of satellite SAR (synthetic aperture radar) images, we present methods to quantify the dispersion, duration, and orientation of leads in sea ice during winter in the nothern Bering Sea. Our methods generate frequency distributions of lead characteristics that can be sampled in simulation models of foraging. Our goal is to develop predictive models of small-scale ice characteristics based on weather and preceding sea-ice conditions. Such models will directly tie ice conditions to the population energetics of affected animals, and identify key aspects of lead structure that constrain animal distributions. The methods developed here are applicable to ice-dependent species throughout polar and subpolar regions.



 

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