AWIPS II images of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band data covering the 05 December – 09 December 2014 period (above; click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) revealed a fairly abrupt increase in the southwesterly motion of drift ice in the Chukchi Sea (off the northwest coast of Alaska), with giant ice floes beginning to break away north of Barrow (station identifier PABR) on 08 December. Although the northern half of the satellite scene saw little to no sunlight during this time, abundant illumination from the Moon (in the Waning Gibbous phase, at 82% of full) helped to demonstrate the “visible image at night” capability of the VIIRS Day/Night Band.
This change in ice motion was caused by an increase in northeasterly wind over that region, in response to a tightening pressure gradient between a 1040 hPa high pressure centered north of Siberia and a 958 hPa low pressure centered south of Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska (below). The strong winds were also creating the potential for heavy freezing spray over the open waters north and south of the Bering Strait.
Along the northwest coast of Alaska, northeasterly winds at Point Hope (station identifier PAPO) gusted as high as 62 knots or 71 mph on 09 December (below). Not far to the north at Cape Lisburne (PALU), the peak wind gust was 39 knots or 45 mph.