Not only did we see plenty of great news about polar bears but EATEN (my first novel) is now well on it’s way to being a resounding success. Don’t let your friends and colleagues have all the nightmares! Fabulous read for a long cold NH winter’s night but also an excellent choice for the beach…perhaps fewer nightmares?
The Canadian Ice Service predictions for winter 2016 off eastern Canada (where my novel takes place) is for extensive ice for the third year in a row. That means only nine years to go for the situation in 2025 to meet my speculations regarding a most terrifying onslaught of starving polar bears in Newfoundland.
I don’t ask for donations here at PolarBearScience – if you appreciate my efforts (418 posts and almost 630,000 views since late July 2012) and would like to see more of the same, please buy a copy or two of my book (and don’t forget to go back and leave a brief review; only the number of stars count). Paperback editions here and here; Ebooks for immediate gratification (Kindle; All other e formats).
In 2015, the Arctic Fallacy was exposed, there were official admissions of population increases (here and here) – all after we had Twenty Good Reasons Not to Worry About Polar Bears.
More of the same for 2016!
A heartfelt Happy New Year to you and yours, from a Canadian zoologist not afraid to wonder ‘what if’ but honest enough to call the output fiction.
Posted in Conservation Status, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Arctic Fallacy, Atlantic Canada, Eastern Canada, Eaten, facts, information, Newfoundland, novel, polar bear, sea ice, speculative fiction, starving polar bear
Results of this fall’s Barents Sea population survey have been released by the Norwegian Polar Institute and they are phenomenal: despite several years with poor ice conditions, there are more bears now (~975) than there were in 2004 (~685) around Svalbard (a 42
30% increase) and the bears were in good condition.
Oddly, in a September report right after the count, biologist Jon Aars reported them in “excellent” condition, with some of them “as fat as pigs.” I guess “good” is the same as “excellent.”
Bears in the Russian portion of the Barents Sea were not counted this year because the Russians would not allow it; the previous total count, from 2004, was 2,650 (range ~1900-3600) for the entire region.
In the map above (courtesy the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group), the Svalbard archipelago is on the left (Norwegian territory) and the archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya on the right (Russian territory).
Oddly, the comments made by lead researcher Jon Aars to a Norwegian newspaper (in English), which picked this up yesterday (“Polar bears make a comeback” ), were far more positive than those in the press release (which is likely all that western media will see).
UPDATE 24 December 2015: The new population survey number for Svalbard is actually a 42% increase over the 2004 number. Thanks to Arvid Oen, a WUWT reader, for alerting Anthony Watts to the error, and to Anthony for passing it along. Title and text fixed accordingly, apologies to any others who have picked this up. Cheers and Merry Christmas.
Posted in Conservation Status, Population, Sea ice habitat, Uncategorized
Tagged Aars, Arctic Fallacy, Barents Sea, estimate, expert opinion, facts, increase, information, IUCN, Norwegian Polar Institute, PBSG, polar bear, population size, sea ice, Svalbard
CBC reported this morning that a polar bear was shot last Friday (18 December) at the dump in Moose Factory, Ontario – long past the date when bears in Southern Hudson Bay are usually out on the ice. But a single bear in trouble does not spell catastrophe for the species or the local population: how many times does this need to be said?
Claims of “almost no ice” seem a bit disingenuous, since this seems to be the only bear caught in this situation (if there are others, no one has reported it): other bears appear to have either made use of the ice that was present (see map below) or walked north until they found more ice. This bear (picture below) seems to have decided that the fare on land might do for a while longer, which suggests he’s either a subadult bear (with little experience) or an old one – looks like the former to me in the picture below but the report doesn’t say.
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Derocher, dump, facts, James Bay, Moose Factory, polar bear, problem bears, sea ice, Southern Hudson Bay, starvation
You have to know that the 2015 IUCN Red List assessment for polar bears contains good news because no one is talking about it – and none of the online information sources I’ve checked have updated their polar bear profiles to reflect it.
For all its flaws (including the deceptive focus on summer sea ice), this Red List update is the most statistically robust, in-depth study of the conservation status of polar bears – why is it being ignored, especially by the conservation organizations people turn to for information online?
UPDATE: see 18 January 2016 post here.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status
Tagged decline, Defenders of Wildlife, EOL, extinction, facts, information, IUCN, polar bear, Polar Bear Specialist Group, Polar Bears International, population size, Red list, sea ice, status, threatened, trend, Ursus maritimus, vulnerable, Wikipedia, WWF
Sea ice development over Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and Davis Strait has been rather unusual this year but what that might mean for polar bears over the coming winter and spring is hard to tell.
Note: The Canadian Ice Service seems to be in the process of updating its sea ice page and graphing features that used to be available weekly on Thursday have not been available until the following week. This means the most recent graphs available are for the week of 11 December (see below).
Posted in Sea ice habitat
Tagged 1992, Davis Strait, El Nino, Foxe Basin, freeze-up, heavy sea ice, Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, polar bear, polar bear facts, sea ice, western hudson bay
Sea ice development in eastern Svalbard this fall is lagging well behind the rest of the Arctic. Several polar bear researchers (e.g., Andrew Derocher here and here) have recently been raising the alarm that this might be devastating for Barents Sea females looking for suitable denning sites.
The implication is that pregnant polar bear females are inflexible – so fixated on one location to give birth that they are unable or unwilling to choose an alternative if conditions preclude using their preferred location this year. However, the available facts do not support such a pessimistic attitude.
Posted in Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Aars, Barents Sea, dens, Derocher, flexibility, Franz Josef Land, Hopen Island, Kong Karls Land, nearshore, pelagic, philopatry, polar bear, polar bear facts, pregnant females, sea ice, Svalbard
As I’ve pointed out previously, polar bears are leanest – and thus, hungriest and potentially the most dangerous to humans – at the end of winter (i.e. March).
That is why the unexpected prospect of hundreds of lean and hungry polar bears coming ashore in early March hunting available human prey would be a truly terrifying and daunting experience. Such a speculative scenario stands in marked contrast to an actual incident in July that involved a single well-fed bear that attacked a man asleep in a tent because he and his companions had chosen to dismiss the known risk.
Any predatory attack by a polar bear is terrifying but which is potentially the more deadly? One you can reasonably expect (and thus prepare for) or one that comes out of the blue and catches everyone unprepared?
Posted in Book review, Life History, Polar bear attacks
Tagged attacks, battle between man, beast and Nature, bears starve, climate change, dangerous, Davis Strait, deadly, Eaten, facts, Fogo Island, global warming, harrowing encounter, hungry polar bear attacks, ice melts, March, Meltdown, Newfoundland, novel, polar bear, predatory, scary, sea ice, speculative fiction, spring
It has been less than a month since the 2015 IUCN Red List assessment for polar bears was announced, which emphasized that the population trend for polar bears is unknown and that there is only a 70% chance that polar bear numbers could decline by 30% over the next 35 years.
Yet, in a press release announcing the Weston Family Prize for lifetime achievement in northern research (along with $50,000) to Ian Stirling for his work on polar bears (Newswire, December 9, 2015), Stirling is quoted repeating an out-of-date prediction:
“Dr. Stirling estimates that about half of the polar bear population around the circumpolar Arctic could disappear by 2050 to 2060, if climate warming continues as is currently projected…”
I’d have thought that if Stirling did not agree with the IUCN assessment prepared by his colleagues, he would have said so last month when the report was released to international fanfare. Instead, he seems to be deliberately ignoring the 2015 IUCN Red List assessment and pretending that the flawed predictions he had a hand in making are still plausible. Continue reading
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Arctic Fallacy, award-winning science, climate warming, disappear, evidence, extinction, IUCN, lifetime achievement, polar bear, polar bear facts, population size, predictions, Red list, Southern Beaufort, Stirling, thick spring ice, threatened, Weston Family Prize
And another emailed me to say of EATEN:
“Your explanation of the relationship of seals, bears and ice was a treat. Congratulations, “Eaten” is a real page turner.”
Update: The review referred to in the title is from the UK store, which has not (a.m. 8 December) been added to the Amazon.com site.
The perfect gift for those fiction readers on your list that love a good scary story. Speculative fiction of the horrifying kind – it could happen, it just hasn’t yet.
Find the paperback at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Amazon Kindle ebook
Barnes & Noble NOOK ebook
Kobo bookstore ebooks
Apple device ebook (via iTunes, under “Suspense and Mystery”)
Overdrive ebooks for libraries (see if your library has it: if not, suggest they get it).
Posted in Book review, Polar bear attacks
Tagged attack, ebooks, gifts, libraries, Newfoundland, polar bear, readers, reviews, science communication, sea ice, speculative fiction, storytelling, thriller
Thick spring ice due to natural causes is currently the single biggest threat to polar bears. Not declining summer sea ice – thick spring ice. That could change in the future but right now, the evidence supports that statement.
Polar bear deaths due to cyclical changes in Arctic sea ice thickness in the spring have continued despite rising CO2 emissions and declining summer sea ice extent (last major incident, 2004-2006): there is no reason to expect this will not continue. Unwarranted attention on summer ice extent has deflected attention from this major cause of local polar bear population decline.
Sea ice models do not address past or future changes in spring ice thickness and predictive models of polar bear survival blame all population declines on summer sea ice declines despite strong evidence to the contrary (Crockford 2015: The Arctic Fallacy). Continue reading
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Arctic Fallacy, climate change, COP21, global warming, IUCN, Paris climate summit, polar bear, population size, population status, Red list, sea ice, snow depth, Southern Beaufort, summer sea ice minimum, thick spring ice, threat, western hudson bay