Freeze-up in Western Hudson Bay is finally underway. It’s no later this year than average, similar to last year.
This rather contradicts the hysterical hue and cry from the tag-team of Polar Bears International (PBI) spokesperson Steven Amstrup and Guardian reporter Suzanne Goldenberg last week during PBI’s “Polar Bear Week” propaganda blitz (see previous posts here, here, and here),
So much for the trend towards later freeze-up dates that PBI says is endangering polar bears in Western Hudson Bay.
On-the-ground observers confirm polar bears are preparing to move out and sea ice maps show the ice is forming very rapidly — see maps and quotes below.
All of the evidence suggests that any day now, the ice will be ready for polar bears to start move offshore and resume hunting.
From fellow blogger Kelsey Eliasson, on the ground in Churchill, Manitoba (PolarBearAlley — Monday, November 11, 2013):
“Over the past couple days, a lot of ice has built up here. On Saturday [Nov. 9], there were a lot of bears out testing the ice and even a few seal kills. You could see bears from the Town Complex and from Dump Beach sneaking up on seals. One bear had such a big belly, he or she almost looked pregnant.
The wave of mothers and cubs, signifying the beginning of the end of bear season, has come in. Once the big males start moving out east, this kind of has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the population. In turn, the mothers and cubs start heading west towards Churchill and that, itself, pushes the juveniles even closer to town.”[my bold]
See the rest of his post here.
Freeze-up is perhaps a bit earlier than last year from the looks of it. At the very least, it’s about average in terms of long-term records (Gagnon and Gough 2005). Similarly, breakup was also about average this year: bears left the ice early to late July.
One of the things I notice in The Guardian video that was promoted last week (“Polar bears fight for survival as sea ice melts“) — besides the fact that I saw no starving bears — was that they kept the camera pointed well away from the ice that was developing at the shore.
You could see out-of-focus ice on the bay in the background of Goldenberg’s opening monologue but after that, you never saw ice again, despite the fact that bears were shown walking along the beach. Snow on the ground, but no ice on the shore (except for one brief second when the camera wobbled). [Note that the Guardian footage was shot near Churchill only a few days before Kelsey's observations quoted above].
I guess showing sea ice forming at the edge of the bay might have contradicted the “message” PBI was trying to convey, that the poor bears were suffering from lack of ice. Bears in good condition and average dates of freeze-up are the facts here.
Ice development maps below: for November 13 and 12.
Gagnon, A.S. and Gough, W.A. 2005. Trends in the dates of ice freeze-up and breakup over Hudson Bay, Canada. Arctic 58: 370-382. http://arctic.synergiesprairies.ca/arctic/index.php/arctic/article/view/451