Davis Strait polar bear habitat higher now than in 1979 and early 1980s

The Davis Strait polar bear subpopulation is said to be ‘vulnerable’ to the supposed effects of global warming because, like Hudson Bay, Davis Strait sea ice retreats every summer, leaving polar bears on land for several months.

However, Davis Strait bears have been upgraded to ‘stable’ status, according to the latest table (2013) issued by the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (see their boundary map for Davis Strait bears below). Recent development of sea ice in the region can only improve that rating.

[More background here and heremap-DavisStrait

It seems that sea ice in Davis Strait is well above normal for this time of year – a recent announcement by the Canadian Ice Service (CIS) says it’s 10% above average, higher than it’s been in 25 years (h/t S. Goddard).

The Canadian Ice Service, an arm of Environment Canada, said there is 10 per cent more ice this year compared to the 30-year average.

We probably haven’t seen a winter this bad as far as ice for the past 25 years,” said Voight, referring to both the amount and thickness of the ice.

He said the Gulf of St. Lawrence is covered and some areas are “quite severe.” [my bold]

Full story here.

Latest ice map (March 12) below from the US National Snow and Ice Data Service (NSIDC).

As I pointed out recently here, Barents Sea ice is below average this year, largely due to natural variation in the Atlantic Multidecal Oscillation (AMO), but is higher over the western Atlantic (Sea of Okhotsk ice is below average too but there are no polar bears there).

There is lots of ice around Labrador and Newfoundland, however.

Sea ice extent 2014 March 12 NSIDC

I thought I let you see exactly what CIS are talking about: what did the ice look like 25 years ago, in 1989? What about 35 years ago, in 1979, the start of the satellite record for sea ice? It might surprise you.

Here’s today’s map from CIS:

Sea ice extent Canada 2014 March 13_CIS

Here are some NSIDC maps from 25 years ago (1989) and 35 years ago (1979 and the early 1980s). The only ones they provide are month-end averages (e.g. Feb/1979), so I’ve provided an end-Feb and end-March for a few years (I threw in the map for Feb. 2007, the last year of the latest polar bear population survey in Davis Strait, at the very end):

Sea ice extent 1989 Feb end_NSIDC

Sea ice extent 1989 March end_NSIDC

Sea ice extent 1979 Feb average_NSIDC

Sea ice extent 1979 March average_NSIDC

Sea ice extent 1980 February average_NSIDC

Sea ice extent 1981 February average_NSIDC

Sea ice extent 1982 February average_NISDC

Sea ice extent 1983 Feb average_NSIDC

Sea ice extent 1984 February average_NSIDC

Sea ice extent 2007 Feb average_NSIDC

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