Monthly Archives: November 2013

Polar bear problems in N Hudson Bay not due to late freeze-up

The myth that northern Hudson Bay communities are having problems with polar bears this year because freeze-up is later than usual just won’t go away.

I discussed the well publicized craziness in Churchill last week (here and here), but there’s more. Polar bears are already leaving the shore of Northern Hudson Bay as the ice rapidly forms but I saw a story yesterday (dated late last week) that quoted a local official in Repulse Bay blaming their polar bear problems on late freeze-up.

I’ve written before about the peer-reviewed paper by polar bear researchers Seth Cherry and colleagues published earlier this year on breakup and freeze-up dates between 1991 and 2009. But perhaps the freeze-up data needs more emphasis. I’ve copied that graph again below, with notes, and added some ice maps. See for yourself.

Bottom line: A “late freeze-up” for northwestern Hudson Bay occurs when ice formation is delayed until early December or beyond. Freeze-up was nowhere near “late” this year, nor was the ice “slow to freeze.” It wasn’t last year either.
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Human-polar bear conflicts: Stirling 1974 vs. Amstrup 2013

What a difference a few decades makes to attitudes about human-polar bear conflicts:

Ian Stirling, 1974:

Dr. Stirling felt that complete cessation of hunting, such as exists in Norway, may increase bear-man conflicts. Dr. Reimers replied that the careful harvesting of polar bears was probably desirable, but the total ban now in effect was largely an emotional and political decision rather than a biological one. Last year four bears were killed in self-defense.” [my bold]
(1974 PBSG meeting “Norway – progress reported by [Thor] Larsen”; Anonymous 1976:11).

Stephen Amstrup, 2013:

“We have predicted in no uncertain times [sic – terms?] that as bears become hungrier as the sea ice absence period is longer, more and more of these animals are going to be venturing into communities, venturing into villages, raiding food caches, getting into garbage, and even attacking people. So we predict these kinds of events are going to be more frequent and more severe because of climate change. [my bold]
(The Guardian, November 4, 2013).

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Amstrup compares climate change to a Titanic for polar bears

Steven Amstrup, spokesperson for Polar Bears International, has ramped up his “save the polar bear” rhetoric over last week’s nonsense.

Last night (November 13), the NBC News online story (here) that accompanied their evening news clip (h/t DB) included this appalling analogy:

“…Amstrup said greenhouse gases created by humans threaten future generations of bears by threatening their ice. He said he likes to compare climate change’s effect on polar bears to the infamous Titanic ocean liner.

“[It] didn’t matter how many people were on the Titanic or how well they were doing,” he said. “When the Titanic slipped beneath the waves and they lost their habitat, that was it. So polar bears will also go away because of their dependence on sea ice.” [my bold]

Amstrup really wants people to believe that all the polar bears in the world will die some day, all at once, in some mega ice-loss catastrophe!
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Hudson Bay freeze-up average this year – not late

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.

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Eemian excuses: the warm was different then, polar bears were fine

Today I’ll discuss the response by Polar Bears International representative Steven Amstrup to a comment submitted during their recent “webchat” at The Guardian (Wednesday, November 6), which had to do with the fact that polar bears survived warm periods in the geological past, particularly interglacials.

[Here’s a pdf file of all the questions that were answered by PBI staff: PBI webchat Q&A, also available here]

This is the comment (the first portion of #4 on my list), submitted by MarkBLR:

There was a paper in Science magazine last year (link …) indicating that polar bears became a distinct species about 600kya (+/- 300k years).

This means that they have survived at least two (and possibly eight) previous inter-glacials, in particular the Eemian (130kya to 110kya), when temperatures in the Arctic were 5 to 8 degrees Celcius warmer than current temperatures for several thousand years.

Note that their numbers apparently decreased significantly during the Eemian, and slowly increased as temperatures cooled, but “climate change” was not enough on its own to make them extinct. [my bold]

[We can perhaps forgive Mark for not being able to spell “Celsius” correctly, but Amstrup (see below) has no excuse. The paper in Science Mark refers to is Hailer et al. 2012, discussed in a previous post here. Note that the actual question Mark asked is not included here because Amstrup responded to this portion of his comment only]

Amstrup tries to convince Mark and other readers that polar bear resilience through Eemian warming is irrelevant to the issue of future survival, which I’ll demonstrate is not the case at all.

Here is what Amstrup had to say:
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Baffin Bay polar bear population survey done, results due end 2014

From this story in today’s Alaska Dispatch (via CBC NewsEye on the Arctic), November 11, 2013, which adds a few more details regarding the progress of ongoing population surveys and the next PBSG meeting:

“The Nunavut government has wrapped up three years of fieldwork on Baffin Bay polar bears, and is preparing to release a new population estimate sometime next year….
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Tracking polar bears in the Beaufort Sea: October map

Here is the October follow-up to my post on the July track map for female polar bears being followed by satellite in the Beaufort Sea by the US Geological Survey (USGS) – Ten out of ten polar bears being tracked this summer in the Beaufort Sea are on the ice. See that post for methods and other background on this topic, and some track maps from 2012 (also available at the USGS website here).

The track map for October is copied below (Figure 1).

By the end of October, ice reached the coast in several areas. The ten bears from July were down to seven – their collars might have stopped working or fallen off (most likely), they might have left the area entirely (also possible) or they might have died (the researchers don’t say which).
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