Early freeze-up in progress on Hudson Bay – what a difference a year makes

In contrast to 2016, when freeze-up along Western Hudson Bay was about as late as its ever been (early December), ice is already forming along the shore of northern Hudson Bay. There is much more ice than usual for this date, indicated by the dark blue in the latest weekly ice chart below:

Hudson Bay weekly departure from normal 2017 Oct 30

The ice is still thin, as the chart below indicates, but that’s how freeze-up starts. As long as strong winds don’t blow the ice away (as it sometimes does at this stage), the ice gets thicker day by day — and advances further and further off shore. Polar bears get out on the ice as soon as they are physically able, when the ice is about 3-4 inches thick (about 10 cm) or less.

Hudson Bay North daily ice stage of development 2017_Nov 1

Below is a video of a bear traversing that thin ice yesterday (1 November 2017), near Churchill. Is this a portend of a freeze-up date as early as occurred in the 1980s?

This is how it looks on the main sea ice chart:

Sea ice Canada 2017 Nov 2

At this date in 2015, there was less ice on the edge of the bay but more in Foxe Basin to the north:

Canadian Arctic Nov 2 2015_CIS

In 2015, most bears had left the shore to resume seal hunting on the ice by the 20th or 21st of November, less than two weeks later than in the 1980s (about 8 November).

And last year at this date, there was hardly any visible Hudson Bay ice on the chart:

Sea ice extent Canada 2016 Nov 2_CIS

Churchill polar bears were reported on the ice last year when it looked like the chart below: freeze–up was definitely late and bears left shore to resume hunting as soon as possible.

Sea ice extent Canada 2016 Dec 7_CIS PBs leaving Churchill for the ice

By the end of that week (5-11 December 2016 2017), bears held in the Churchill’s Polar Bear Jail had been released, so that they could resume hunting:

2016 Dec 5-11_week 22_week 11 missing.jpg

To date (last week of October, week 16) this year, far fewer problem bears have been recorded than last year:

Churchill PB reports_week 16_23-29 Oct_2017_week 10 and 13 missing

2016 Oct 23-30_week 16_week 11 missing

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