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DATE: March 7, 2019

SNIP: For the second straight year, the Bering Sea — a turbulent and bountiful stretch of the northern Pacific Ocean — is virtually ice free at a time of year when it should be gaining ice.

The ice pack’s ebb and flow each year has far-reaching consequences for the broader Bering Sea ecosystem, including determining the reach and abundance of prized fish species such as Alaska pollock and Pacific cod.

In a new study published in Earth’s Future on Thursday, scientists warn that Arctic climate change is already reverberating far outside the region.

By the end of February, Bering Sea ice extent was lower than it has been since written records began in 1850.

The March 6 departure from the long-term average shows that an area of ice equivalent to California and Montana combined is missing from the Bering Sea.

Zack Labe, a PhD candidate at the University of California at Irvine, says that although the past two years have brought historically low Bering Sea ice conditions, year-to-year trends there can fluctuate considerably.

Labe says some years may see temporary upticks in Bering Sea ice extent, but that overall, climate change is now in the driver’s seat.

A study published last year found that a marine heat wave in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska in 2016 cannot be explained without including human-caused global warming.