Gulf of Alaska
A view of the Gulf of Alaska from space, showing swirling sediment in the waters
Gulf of Alaska is located in Alaska
Gulf of Alaska
Gulf of Alaska
LocationSouth shore of Alaska
Coordinates57°N 144°W / 57°N 144°W / 57; -144
Part ofNorth Pacific Ocean
River sourcesSusitna River
Ocean/sea sourcesPacific Ocean
Basin countriesCanada and United States
Surface area1,533,000 km2 (592,000 sq mi)
IslandsKodiak Archipelago, Montague Island, Middleton Island, Alexander Archipelago
SettlementsAnchorage, Juneau

The Gulf of Alaska (TlingitYéil T'ooch’[1]) is an arm of the Pacific Ocean defined by the curve of the southern coast of Alaska, stretching from the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island in the west to the Alexander Archipelago in the east, where Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage are found.

The Gulf shoreline is a combination of forest, mountain and a number of tidewater glaciers. Alaska's largest glaciers, the Malaspina Glacier and Bering Glacier, spill out onto the coastal line along the Gulf of Alaska. The coast is heavily indented with Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, the two largest connected bodies of water. It includes Yakutat Bay and Cross Sound. Lituya Bay (a fjord north of Cross Sound, and south of Mount Fairweather) is the site of the largest recorded tsunami in history. It serves as a sheltered anchorage for fishing boats.

The Gulf of Alaska

The Gulf of Alaska is considered a Class I, productive ecosystem with more than 300 grams of carbon per square meter per year[2] based on SeaWiFS data.

Deep water corals can be found in the Gulf of Alaska. Primnoa pacifica has contributed to the location being labeled as Habitat Areas of Particular Concern.[3] P. pacifica is a deep water coral typically found between 150 metres (490 ft) and 900 metres (3,000 ft) here.[4]

Thanks to the North Pacific Current, which is in turn fed by the warm Kuroshio Current, the Gulf of Alaska remains ice-free throughout the year. In 1977, the Gulf of Alaska started to manifest an unexpected and at that time inexplicable shift on its normal climate regime, resulting in a growth of the mean temperature of the sea surface and in an increased availability and variety of commercial fish species. A similar volatile climate change was observed during the 1970s in the North Pacific seas.[5]


The Gulf is a great generator of storms. In addition to dumping vast quantities of snow and ice on southern Alaska, resulting in some of the largest concentrations south of the Arctic Circle, many of the storms move south along the coasts of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and as far south as Southern California (primarily during El Niño events).[6] Much of the seasonal rainfall and snowfall in the Pacific Northwest and Southwestern United States comes from the Gulf of Alaska.


The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Gulf of Alaska as follows:[7]

On the north. The coast of Alaska.

On the south. A line drawn from Cape Spencer, the northern limit of the Coastal Waters of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia to Kabuch Point, the southeast limit of the Bering Sea, in such a way that all the adjacent islands are included in the Gulf of Alaska.

The US Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System database defines the Gulf of Alaska as bounded on the north by the coast of Alaska and on the south by a line running from the south end of Kodiak Island on the west to Dixon Entrance on the east.[8]



  1. ^[bare URL PDF]
  2. ^ Hogan, C. Michael (2011). "Gulf of Alaska. Topic ed. P.Saundry. Ed.-in-chief C.J.Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth". National Council for Science and the Environment. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  3. ^ Stone Robert P; Shotwell S Kalei. (2007). "State of deep coral ecosystems in the Alaska Region: Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands" (PDF). In: Lumsden SE et Al., Eds. The State of Deep Coral Ecosystems of the United States. NOAA Technical Memorandum CRCP-3. Silver Spring, MD: 65–108. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  4. ^ Waller, RG; Stone, RP; Mondragon, J; Clark, CE (2011). "Reproduction of Red Tree Corals in the Southeastern Alaskan Fjords: Implications for Conservation and Population Turnover". In: Pollock NW, ed. Diving for Science 2011. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences 30th Symposium. Dauphin Island, AL: AAUS; 2011. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved June 13, 2013.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ Claudie Beaulieu; Harriet Cole; Stephanie Henson; Andrew Yool; Thomas R. Anderson; Lee de Mora; Erik T. Buitenhuis; Momme Butenschön; Ian J. Totterdell5; J. Icarus Allen (2016). "Marine regime shifts in ocean biogeochemical models: a case study in the Gulf of Alaska" (PDF). Biogeosciences. 13 (15): 4543–42. Bibcode:2016BGeo...13.4533B. doi:10.5194/bg-13-4533-2016. ISSN 1726-4170. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 7, 2020.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ National Geospatial-intelligence Agency (2006). Prostar Sailing Directions 2006 Pacific Ocean and Southeast Ocean Planning Guides. Pub. (United States. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency). Prostar Publications. p. 241. ISBN 978-1-57785-663-4. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  7. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 8, 2011. Retrieved December 28, 2020.
  8. ^ "Gulf of Alaska". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior.