Polar bear habitat update for Canada at mid-February

Mid-February is the tail end of the winter fast for polar bears. Sea ice is approaching it’s maximum global extent but local maximum extents may vary. Most of the sea ice in Canada is locked in already but two regions still vary at this time of year: the Labrador Sea off Labrador and Newfoundland – where polar bears come to feed on an abundance of newborn harp seals – and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where polar bears have not been spotted in more than 60 years. sea-ice-extent-canada-2017-feb-14_cis

There is almost certainly enough ice for harp seals to give birth in the Gulf this year, if the ice holds (despite some premature hand-wringing by seal biologists). There is more ice in the Gulf and off Newfoundland this year than there was in 2013 (see map below).
Compared to 2015 at this date, courtesy CIS:

sea-ice-extent-canada-2015-feb-14-cis

And to 2014, a couple of days earlier:

sea-ice-extent-canada_2014-feb-12_cis

But in 2013, even by the 16 February, there was very little ice on the Great Lakes and even less sea ice off Newfoundland and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence than there is in 2017.

sea-ice-extent-canada-2013-feb-16-cis

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