Since 1971, there have been only two years with as little sea ice in Davis Strait as there was this year at this time – 2003 and 2010. But the ice is forming rapidly and history shows it will likely catch up enough by next week to allow most Davis Strait polar bears to start hunting seals except along the Labrador coast.
Have a look at the ice maps and charts below from the Canadian Ice Service for the status of freeze-up in Davis Strait.
UPDATE 30 November 2014: Sea ice extent map from NSIDC added.
Sea ice extent and concentration in Canada, as of 29 November 2014 (below, click to enlarge):
[UPDATE: Look at the difference in Hudson Bay ice extent produced by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) for 29 November: it shows way more ice than average! An error (but in which one?) — or just different ways of calculating data? Davis Strait ice coverage in both maps (above and below) seems about the same]
Since 1971, there have been only two years with as little sea ice in Davis Strait as there was this year in the last week of November – 2003 and 2010 (see below, click to enlarge).
As a general rule, polar bears can usually start hunting from the ice when there is ~5% ice coverage showing on these charts. By the time there is ~10% coverage, most bears (except pregnant females) will have left the shore.
By next week, however, there is likely to be significant catch-up in ice coverage. Below is the 1971 to 2013 record for the week of December 4, showing the rapid formation of ice between late November and early December most years (click to enlarge). Only in 2010 had significant amounts of ice not formed by the first week of December. Check back late next week for an update.
Labrador polar bears face a longer ice-free season than Hudson Bay bears, but do well November 26, 2014