Monthly Archives: May 2014

Polar bear habitat update – ice coverage at the beginning of this year’s critical feeding period

Polar bears are all out on the sea ice at this time of year, feeding on new-born seal pups. Here’s a look at what the ice conditions are like at this critical time.

Polar_Bear_male on sea ice_Alaska Katovik Regehr photo_April 29, 2005_sm labeled

end April extent NSIDC May 4

The ice extent is still well within two standard deviations from the 1981-2010 average, which indicates no deviation from natural variation, as the graph (below) for May 1, 2014 from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) shows.

Sea ice extent 2014 May 1_NSIDC_graph

Between the official spring maximum (according to the NSIDC ) on March 21, with a total extent of 14.8 million km2, the ice slowly retreated in some regions and increased in others, while most regions remained pretty much the same. This is an important reminder that the Arctic as a whole is not a homogeneous region but one with marked regional variation.

As has been noted elsewhere (Sunshine Hours), ice in the Greenland Sea (habitat of ‘East Greenland’ bears) and the Barents Sea both increased in extent over this period. Bering Sea ice (habitat of southern ‘Chukchi Sea’ bears) declined markedly but Baffin Bay/Gulf of St. Lawrence ice (habitat of ‘Davis Strait’ bears) declined much less, as NOAA’s MASIE maps copied below show very well.

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Earth to Newsweek: polar bear populations have not been on the decline since 2008

A recent Newsweek story about the US Navy having no “rules of engagement” to deal with polar bear encounters leads with alarmist misinformation.

Photo credit Cmdr. Christy Hagen/U.S. Navy

Photo credit Cmdr. Christy Hagen/U.S. Navy

Author Max Strasser (April 30, 2013), in his recent article in Newsweek (As the World Warms, Navy Strategists Plan for an Arctic Rush”) [h/t D. V]

Approximately 25,000 polar bears live in and around the Arctic Circle. Climate change has put the majestic ursines, a longtime favorite of children’s books and Christmas cards, in peril. In 2008, the United States listed them as a “threatened species” under the Endangered Species Act, and populations have been on the decline since then.”

Sigh. Not so Max, totally not so.

Global polar bear numbers have been stable for the last 30 years, as the graphs below show. The proposed ‘threat’ to polar bears is a future decline in sea ice predicted by computer models. The future, Max, is not now.

Polar bear populations are currently doing very well (see my post on the most recent status update report here). On top of that, note that the bears are well distributed throughout available Arctic habitat — one of the accepted hallmarks of a healthy species.

Figure 1. Upper graph uses totals reported in PBSG status tables, with min/max; Lower graph uses the same figures, but adds back in the so-called "inaccurate" estimates dropped 2005-2013. The 1960 figure * is a ballpark estimate. See previous post here.

Figure 1. Upper graph uses totals reported in PBSG status tables, with min/max; Lower graph uses the same figures, but adds back in the so-called “inaccurate” estimates dropped 2005-2013. The 1960 figure * is a ballpark estimate.
See previous post here.

OK, with that error corrected, back to the point of the Newsweek story…

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