It’s just past the height of fall in the Arctic (Oct-Dec) and polar bear habitat is expanding day by day: according to NSIDC Masie ice charts, the ice has now surpassed 11 mkm2 in extent. Fall is the second most important feeding period for polar bears after spring.
Only the Barents and Kara Seas (north of Norway and western Russia) are short of ice right now, similar to conditions seen in the fall of 2013. Last fall (2014), conditions were much better and as a consequence, researchers saw a lot of females with healthy cubs in the spring of 2015.
Ice development is proceeding well in Hudson Bay and Davis Strait (see map below from the Canadian Ice Service): somewhat less along the west coast of the bay than in the last two years but certainly enough for polar bears to get out and resume seal hunting.
On the other side of the Atlantic, it is unlikely there will be very many pregnant polar bear females denning on the islands of east Svalbard this year – but that’s not a catastrophe. The bears can den on the sea ice (as many do routinely) or they can use the islands of Franz Josef Land to the east.
Svalbard (see below, courtesy Norwegian Ice Service) is still surrounded by open water, but this is almost certainly due to cyclical changes in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) rather than global warming.
30 November 2015:
Compare this year’s ice to 2014, 2013, and 2009 below:
1 December 2014:
29 November 2013:
30 November 2009: