EATEN – my new polar bear attack novel – is set in Newfoundland 2025 for a reason. I wondered: what if sea ice coverage 10 years from now is as high or higher than it has been for the last two years, with inevitable positive effects on Davis Strait harp seal and polar bear populations?
The Canadian Ice Service prediction for this region, released earlier this week (1 December 2015, see references for link), is that 2016 is set to meet my “what-if” scenario handily. Nine years to go! See the CIS expected ice coverage for 19 February 2016 below (CIS fig. 3):
How does the above ice map compare to the last two years? At least as high or higher. Have a look below.
18 February 2015
19 February 2014
Fast forward about three weeks to see what ice coverage was like as it neared its peak for the region (the time of year when the action in EATEN takes place), starting with last year (two weeks before a polar bear was sighted swimming near the Hibernia oil drilling platform):
12 March 2015
12 March 2014
In conclusion, if CIS proves to be correct in their seasonal outlook then sea ice coverage in eastern Canada in the spring of 2016 will be as great or greater than 2014 and 2015.
Remember that sea ice experts have said (Swart et al. 2015) that the recent lack of overall decline in sea ice coverage for September (2007-2014, now extended to 2015: extreme variation but no statistically significant declining trend, see their fig. 3 below) could last another 10 years or more, even if their modeled prediction for much reduced ice cover by 2100 are correct.
In contrast, winter sea ice coverage (March) is not predicted to decline by 2100 (Amstrup et al. 2007:9; Durner et al. 2009:44).
Amstrup, S.C., Marcot, B.G. and Douglas,D.C. 2007. Forecasting the rangewide status of polar bears at selected times in the 21st century. Administrative Report, US Geological Survey. Reston, Virginia.
Canadian Ice Service 2015. Seasonal Outlook, Gulf of St Lawrence, East Newfoundland Waters and Labrador Coast, Winter 2015-2016. Environment Canada, CIS, December 1. PDF 2016 Newfoundland St Lawrence outlook_Dec 1 2015
Durner, G.M., Douglas, D.C., Nielson, R.M., Amstrup, S.C., McDonald, T.L. and 12 others. 2009. Predicting 21st-century polar bear habitat distribution from global climate models. Ecological Monographs 79: 25–58.
Swart, N.C., Fyfe, J.C., Hawkins, E., Kay, J.E. and Jahn, A. 2015. Influence of internal variability on Arctic sea-ice trends. Nature Climate Change 5(2): 86–89. [paywalled]