The Gateway to the Arctic

Investigations of turbulent mixing in the bering strait

Bering Strait is a shallow, narrow stretch of water, only about 85 km wide and 50 m deep, that separates Russia from Alaska. Despite its small size, it’s an incredibly important component of the global circulation and climate because it's the only pathway by which water can exchange between the Arctic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

Since at least 1990, the flow through the strait has been getting warmer and stronger, a trend which is likely to have serious impacts on the Arctic sea ice environment. The type of water that ends up in the Arctic depends on the type of water that passes through Bering Strait.

Satellite images (like this OceanColor picture from June 18, 2018) reveal a beautiful, complex, swirling flow through Bering Strait and across the Chukchi Sea. There is a clear need to understand how all this turbulence is impacting the water properties as they mix on the shelf before entering the deep Arctic.

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During a September 2015 cruise on the R/V Sikuliaq, the MOD group measured turbulence across the narrowest part of the eastern channel (the U.S. side) of Bering Strait.


We measured turbulent dissipation rates that were much higher than global averages. Turbulence was especially elevated in the warm, fresh Alaskan Coastal Current, where the flow is forced around the jutting tip of Alaska.