Davis Strait polar bear habitat – the sea ice is forming, but it’s late!

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.

Courtesy IUCN PBSG

Courtesy IUCN PBSG

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):

Sea ice extent Canada 2014 Nov 29 CIS

[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]

Sea ice extent 2014 Nov 29_NSIDC

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.

Davis Strait freeze-up same week_Nov 26 to 2014

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.

Davis Strait freeze-up same week_Dec 4 1971 to 2013

Related posts:
Labrador polar bears face a longer ice-free season than Hudson Bay bears, but do well November 26, 2014

Of Labrador polar bears and sea ice way above normal off Newfoundland March 4, 2014

Thriving Foxe Basin and Davis Strait polar bears threaten nesting sea birds
February 9, 2014

Signs that Davis Strait polar bears are at carrying capacity June 10, 2013

Davis Strait polar bears again: body condition declined while population increased June 12, 2013

Baffin Bay-Davis Strait ice concentration comparison – why use the “summer mean”? July 28, 2013

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