mostly above the Arctic Circle, the Chukchi Sea unit of the Alaska Maritime Refuge
contains scattered islands, spits, and mainland areas extending along 500 miles
of coast from southwest of Barrow on the Arctic Ocean . . .
. . . including
the mountainous mainland area and sea cliffs of Cape Lisburne and Cape
Thompson at the western end of the Brooks Range . . .
. . and the low, sandy barrier islands and beaches used by migrating shorebirds
and waterfowl out to the tip of the Seward Peninsula at the Bering Strait. There
the Asian continent and Siberia are less than 60 miles to the west.
region is part of the arctic desert of Alaska, characterized by cold temperatures
and little precipitation. Permanently frozen ground (permafrost) is present
near the surface year-round.
In winter, arctic anti-cyclonic pressure systems
yield intense cold temperatures, low clouds, and light snow. Low pressure systems
prevail during the ice-free months along with cloudy skies, frequent precipitation,
and southwesterly winds averaging less than 15 miles per hour but also recorded
at speeds above 100 mph. The coastline of this unit is locked in ice from late
October to early July and in some years even longer.
In the Cape Lisburne
- Cape Thompson area, average temperatures range from -29o to 21oF
in winter and from 28o to 54oF in summer. Average annual
precipitation is about 13 inches, with an average annual cumulative snow depth
of about 50 inches. That snow, however, is always on the move as the winds constantly
carry and redeposit it.
and nearby Puffin Island in Kotzebue Sound, are part of the National Wilderness
Preservation System. They were established as the Chamisso Refuge in 1912 and
designated as Wilderness in 1975 before becoming part of Alaska Maritime Refuge
in 1980. Captain Otto von Kotzebue, on his round the world voyage, named the larger
of the two islands in 1816 for the scientist / botanist Adelbert Chamisso.
to learn more
Closer Look ...
Cape Thompson (Where ice meets the midnight sun the cast of
seabirds shifts and new players take the stage.)
Last updated:September 8, 2008