Monthly Archives: December 2021

How to build an igloo: was the snow house designed in part to protect against polar bears?

When I came across this fascinating National Film Board video from 1949 on how to build an igloo, it reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague about whether the design of the Inuit snow house was originally developed in part as protection against marauding polar bears?

Such a dome of tightly-fitted snow blocks, when properly consolidated with a thin layer of ice inside, must have been virtually impenetrable to even the hungriest bears – and defendable at the narrow entrance tunnel. The image below is from Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island around 1865, which lies within the boundaries of the Davis Strait subpopulation of polar bears.

A link to ‘How to Build an Igloo‘ is included in my free ‘Arctic Sea Ice Ecosystem Teaching Guide‘ for home schooling found here. The igloo film is 10 minutes long and suitable for all ages.

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Walrus video you can let your kids watch

A National Geographic short of a walrus cow and her newborn calf, from 2009, that’s appropriate for kids.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Educational video about Arctic sea ice to bookmark: excellent for adults and children

One of the recommended videos I included in my Arctic Sea Ice Ecosystem Teaching Guide is a film called “Edge of Ice”. Produced in 1986 (before climate change hype pervaded everything), this 55 minute documentary from the National Film Board of Canada (filmed in Lancaster Sound, Canada) is an excellent summary of Arctic sea ice and its ecology. Available for free streaming here.

Narrated in parts by an Inuk hunter, it not only shows virtually all of the species associated with ice edges in the central Canadian Arctic, including polar bears, but also explains the process of freezing and thawing; life under the ice and the importance of polynyas.

Worth bookmarking for future viewing if you can’t get to it right away. Beats watching the news these days. It’s also a reminder to tell your homeschooling friends and relatives over the holidays about my free Teaching Guide resource: it’s something many parents will find useful.

Mid-December polar bear habitat update

Compared to last year, polar bear habitat at 15 December 2021 is way up in the Barents and Bering Seas but way down in Hudson Bay but nothing any polar bear has to worry about.

Here’s what the ice charts look like.

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Promoters of polar bear catastrophe in Hudson Bay gloss over recent good ice conditions

Hudson Bay has been oddly slow to freeze this year, which has led to a predictable bit of hand-wringing from certain biologists reiterating prophesies of polar bear population collapse. However, since 2009, the last time that freeze-up was anywhere near this late was 2016. In other words, far from this years’ late freeze-up being a picture of ‘the new normal,’ conditions in 2021 are actually unusual compared to the last twelve years.

Perhaps the last bear leaving Cape Churchill for the sea ice, 4 December 2021.

Moreover, considering that 2021 fall ice formation for the Arctic in general is well ahead of 2016 (and every year since, except 2018), it’s hard to see why human-caused global warming caused by ever-increasing CO2 emissions explains the slow freeze-up of Hudson Bay. Timing of Hudson Bay freeze-up has always been highly variable from one year to the next (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017: Fig. 3, copied below). The average freeze-up date in the 1980s was 16 November ± 5 days, while from 2005-2015 this had shifted about a week to 24 November ± 8 days (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017:230). This year freeze-up was later than usual but last year and the three years before that the ice froze as early as it did in the 1980s. Cue the zombie apocalypse.

UPDATE 11 December 2021: see chart below from Andrew Derocher on the position of tagged WH bears at 10 December.

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Higher than average Svalbard sea ice extent in November 2021 has implications for birth of cubs

Early last November, sea ice around Svalbard was the lowest it had been since 1967 and pregnant females were simply unable to den on the eastern islands of the archipelago and instead had to make their dens and give birth in the pack ice or the Franz Josef Land archipelago further east, as they have done before. However, the ice is back this fall with a vengeance: even Hopen Island in the south of region was surrounded by ice well before the end of the month but whether it will attract a few pregnant females remains to be seen.

Results of polar bear health monitoring in the spring of 2021 indicated the bears are doing just fine after last year’s low ice levels. Despite this evidence, a single bear photographed killing a reindeer in August 2020 was falsely blamed on climate change. The narrative never seems to change.

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