Written by James E. Kamis on July 29, 2019
Figure 1: Ocean current and geological map of the Bering Sea Area including; in light red the path of major Bering Sea ocean currents, the 105 known active volcanoes that circumvent the Bering Sea, and the newly volcanic eruption generated Bogosloff Island.
Volcanism, primarily ocean floor in nature, is the most plausible cause of recent alterations to the Bering Sea physical and biological systems, not climate change.
Since 2014, multiple changes to the Bering Sea’s physical and biological systems such as; rise in seawater temperature, sea ice melting, alteration of commercial fish migration patterns and the very sudden die-off of certain sea bird species have made front-page news. Many scientists have been quick to attribute these supposedly "unnatural" events to human-induced atmospheric warming or climate change without mentioning or giving due consideration to emissions from active volcanic features that circumvent the entire Bering Sea and populate its seafloor (Figure 1).
So, let’s take a moment to review Bering Sea volcanic activity and its likely effect on the area’s physical and biological systems.
From a broad geological perspective, the Bering Sea can be characterized as follows:
Positioned along and part of the most active geological system on earth's surface, the Pacific Ring of Fire. A huge geological feature that accounts for 75% of earth's volcanic eruptions and 90% of its earthquakes all of which act to emit massive amounts of heat and heated chemically charged fluid into oceans and atmosphere. Pacific Ring of Fire terrestrial and ocean floor volcanic activity along the Bering Sea segment is common, so much so that eruptions and associated superheated fluid emissions are near constant events.
Bordered on the south (Figure 1) by the constantly active Aleutian Island Subduction Zone / Fault System (also see here) which is home to 70 currently active island volcanoes the bases of which extend outward into the surrounding Bering Sea where they fuel numerous ocean floor volcanoes (seamounts) and hydrothermal vents (ocean floor hot geysers).
Bordered on the west (Figure1) by one of the most volcanically active locations on earth, the Kamchatka Peninsula Subduction Zone / Fault System and its 29 very active and almost continuously erupting volcanoes. Volcanoes that extend far into surrounding ocean waters where they fuel numerous seamounts and hydrothermal vents. Kamchatka is also home to 160 "semi-active" or "extinct" volcanoes, however these classifications have recently been cast into doubt because one of the "extinct" volcanoes just erupted this month.
Home to what can be interpreted from bathymetric maps as numerous mid-deep Bering Sea basin area seamounts and hydrothermal vents.
Bottomline, the Bering Sea is an extremely geologically active area.
Now let's switch to discussing a few of many possible examples of recent powerful volcanic activity from individual geological features within the Bering Sea area. First, the central Bering Sea’s Bogosloff Volcano which erupted an estimated 60 times during the 2016-2017 time frame (Figure 1). These eruptions acted to pulse massive amounts of chemically charged ash, heat, and hot lava onto and into the Bering ocean floor, seawater and atmosphere (Figure 2).
Successive lava expulsions acted to build this sub-sea volcano upward, eventually forming it into its present-day configuration as an above-sea volcanic island with significant extension into adjacent seafloors. Although not currently erupting it is still currently emitting large amounts, not monitored or measured, heat into surrounding ocean waters.
Figure 2: July 2-10, 2017 volcanic eruption of Bering Sea's Bogosloff Island volcano.
Just north of the Bogosloff volcano is the volcanic island of Saint Paul (Figure 1). This island volcano has a long history of volcanic eruptions (see here). It is noteworthy to mention that in 1943, the United States militia personnel stationed on this island witnessed a five-day-long seafloor volcanic eruption just offshore from this island, strengthening the notion that the seafloor of the Saint Paul region is still volcanically active (see here). Sudden die-offs of marine animals in limited geographic areas can often be traced back to local pulses of volcanic emissions, especially those sub-ocean in nature (see here, here, here and here).
It is here contended that the recent die-off event of Puffins on Saint Paul was the result of seafloor emissions from either sea floor volcanic emissions for an are south of Saint Paul or emissions from the Bogosloff volcano whose emissions are carried north by normal ocean currents (Figure 1).. Importantly, seafloor volcanic emissions from both the Bogosloff and Saint Paul Island areas are not monitored.
The Bering Sea is a moderate sized ocean basin, with a large broad shallow shelf, enclosed to the south by a shallow island arc (Aleutian Islands), and at its deepest point only 12,913 feet. These parameters make the moderate and relatively closed basin Bering Sea especially vulnerable to temperature and chemistry changes from pulses of ocean floor volcanism.
Examples of rapid Bering seawater temperature changes are apparent upon review of the Pacific Ocean's previous five years of Shallow Sea Surface Temperature Maps (SST maps). One such example is the sudden warming of the Bering Sea during the last four months as per NOAA Sea Surface Temperature Maps (see here, here, here, and Figure 3). Sudden sea warming that does not fit the trend of very minor and steady global atmospheric warming during the last 20 plus years.
Figure 3: Strong warming of Bering Sea relative to all of Earth’s oceans illustrated in this June 27, 2019, NOAA Sea Surface Temperature Map. This warming developed rapidly during the last four months.
Even more telling, recent research concludes that the melting of Arctic Ocean sea ice, including western Arctic Ocean Sea ice, is the result of ocean and NOT atmospheric warming. Melting of western Arctic Ocean sea ice is contended to likely be geologically induced primarily from active Arctic Ocean seafloor volcanism (see here, here, here, and here). Knowing that Arctic Ocean sea ice is melting from seafloor geologically induced warming, it is logical to then relate the recent sudden onset of extensive Bering sea ice melting as also geologically induced.
Then there is the sudden and continued warming of the entire Bering Sea beginning in the year 2014. For many years before 2014, Bering seawater temperature and sea ice extent remained within normal post-glacial so-called warming period limits (see here). Nothing Unusual. Then things changed very rapidly. This change here is the likely result of a geologically induced 2014-2015 El Nino Pacific Ocean warming event.
An event that acted to also alter Bering Sea marine animal migration patterns and populations such as, but not limited to, pollock migration patterns and phytoplankton growth strength. This event also signaled the beginning of changes to Bearing sea ice distribution patterns (see here). Geologically induced warming of the Pacific Ocean has continued since the initial 2014 warming event, keeping Earth’s largest ocean at above-normal temperatures.
Multiple ancient worldwide mass extinctions of marine life by huge pulses of volcanically induced emissions into the oceans and atmosphere are proven by numerous research studies (see here, here, here, and here). So, the connection between marine animal die-offs and volcanism is a natural process, some would say a necessary natural-selection process as per Charles Darwin.
In summary, recent changes to the Bering Sea’s physical and biological systems are most likely the result of a combination of regional and local volcanically induced emissions of heated and chemically charged fluids into oceans and atmosphere. The immediate jump to a Climate Change Theory related cause is especially difficult to understand especially knowing that frequently during the last five years we have been informed of yet another eruption from a Bering Sea area volcano located in either Russia, Alaska, or on the Bering seafloor.
It's time for the science community to properly acknowledge to the public that geological forces play an important and in some cases, specifically alteration of Bering Sea physical and biological regimes, a dominant role.