There is a rather large patch of open water in the northwest sector but what’s also unusual about breakup this year is the virtual lack of open water in eastern Hudson Bay – that almost never happens (compare to 2013 here). In addition, there’s still very little open water in Hudson Strait, which connects Hudson Bay to Davis Strait in the east – that’s also unusual.
Figure 1. Sea ice extent over Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait at 26 May 2015. Canadian Ice Service. Click to enlarge.
The question is: does the somewhat unusual pattern of ice cover at this date – which developed rapidly over the last few weeks – suggest we can predict whether polar bears will have a shorter-than-average hunting season?
To answer that, you have to look at maps generated by the same source over several years. The result, in my opinion, is inconclusive – while so far, this year looks a bit more like 2009 (which was a very late sea ice breakup year) than it does 2011 (which was an early breakup year), it’s really too early to tell.
I suggest we simply won’t know for another month or so which pattern will prevail. However, that hasn’t stopped IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group member Andrew Derocher (via Twitter, e.g., here and here, among many others) from suggesting that this year’s pattern is likely a portend of doom for Hudson Bay polar bears. See what you think.
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged advocacy, breakup, Davis Strait, Derocher, Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, open water, polar bear, polynyas, sea ice, shore leads
Even though polar bear experts admit there has been no trend in sea ice breakup or freeze-up dates since 2001 – and both Canadian and International experts say this subpopulation is stable – the public is still being misled about the status and condition of polar bears in Western Hudson Bay.
The latest example of misinformation about Western Hudson Bay polar bears appears in a feature story carried by the campus newspaper of York University (Ontario, Canada), meant to highlight the work of biology graduate student Luana Sciullo.1
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population
Tagged advocacy, body condition, climate change, Environment Canada, misinformation, PBSG, polar bear, population estimate, Sciullo, status, Tom Nightingale, vulnerable, western hudson bay, York University
An editorial in the Edmonton Journal this morning (“Stand on guard for polar bears”) takes a most extraordinary position: that the results of two recent papers of dubious value should motivate Canada to create more jobs for polar bear biologists, “protect” the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (from what, they don’t say), and galvanize Canada’s position with respect to curtailing carbon dioxide emissions. In that order.
Edmonton Journal editorial photo 22 January 2015. Munich Zoo bears.
First, the unnamed editors1 say: “This country needs more eyes and ears monitoring the health, numbers and locations of its polar bear populations.”
Why would they come to that conclusion? They quote University of Alberta’s Andrew Derocher (who supervises a number of students doing polar bear research in Western Hudson Bay):
“If Canada was doing the right thing, we’d have extensive monitoring,” University of Alberta polar bear researcher Andrew Derocher said to the Journal in late 2014.”
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Sea ice habitat
Tagged advocacy, Canada, climate change, Derocher, ESA, future threats, global warming, Hamilton, Hawkins, IPCC AR5, jobs, journalists, last refuge, Peacock, polar bear, population assessments, predictions, sea ice decline, threatened, worst-case scenario
Steve Amstrup has left a comment below his January 20, 2014 “starving polar bears’ article at The Conversation, which I discussed in my last post.
I’ve copied his comment below and the response to his comment that I left this morning, which is copied below his. See the entire comment sequence here.
Posted in Advocacy, History, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged activist scientists, advocacy, Amstrup, climate models, global warming, Polar Bears International, sea ice declines, sea ice extent, September sea ice, starving polar bears
I suggested in my last post of 2013 that the biologists of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) might have learned some lessons over the last year about the folly of withholding evidence, fudging data, and trying to hide good news. However, it appears that was wishful thinking.
In the course of writing the essay on my top posts of 2013, I went to the PBSG website to check something, and blow me over with a feather, found an announcement that had been added a few weeks ago (December 16, 2013) without a whisper to the media.
The old PBSG page, “Population status” – which used to say “The total number of polar bears worldwide is estimated to be 20,000 – 25,000” – has been replace by a notice entitled “Population status reviews.”
The former estimate population estimate (“20,000 – 25,000”) can no longer be found on the website and no other figure is offered.
The sidebar menu option “Status table” says “will be published soon.”
I’ve copied the short PBSG notice in its entirety below (pdf here):
Posted in Conservation Status, Population
Tagged advocacy, communication, genetics, IUCN, PBSG, Polar Bear Specialist Group, population status, population status review, press release, subpopulation boundaries
The two top posts I published this year had one thing in common – they exposed polar bear researchers dodging full disclosure of scientific information in a way that outraged a lot of people. These two posts still draw a regular crowd of readers.
#1. “Global population of polar bears has increased by 2,650-5,700 since 2001” (published July 15, 2013) – 8,786 views as of December 30.
#2. “Ian Stirling’s latest howler: the polar bear who died of climate change” (August 7, 2013) – 7,872 views as of December 30.
[Note that #3 was the summary essay, “Ten good reasons not to worry about polar bears” (February 26, 2013), at 5,491 views. Dr. Matt Ridley wrote a foreword introducing that essay (“We should be listening to Susan Crockford”) that appeared in Canada’s Financial Post]
On this last day of the year, I thought I’d make an attempt to put these results into a wider perspective.