Monthly Archives: April 2022

Explaining abundant polar bear sightings on the East Coast as an upshot of sea ice loss is absurd

Last week, a senior producer at CBC News, in order to concoct a timely story for ‘Earth Day’, attempted to explain the high number of sightings of polar bears this April in Newfoundland and Labrador, compared to the last two years, as a consequence of climate change and its handmaiden, loss of Arctic sea ice.

Title: ‘With an extinction threat looming, no wonder polar bears are at our door — and on the roof: there’s a grim reason why polar bears have been frequently showing up in coastal communities’. CBC News, 23 April 2022

The problem with this narrative is that the East Coast had much reduced sea ice in 2021 and virtually no polar bear sightings in Newfoundland and none in Labrador. There was more ice in 2020 than 2021 but also few bears. This year, ice extent was similar to 2020 for most of the region but polar bear sightings were up considerably.

In fact, the two years with the most sightings and problems with polar bears since 2008 were 2017 and 2018: in 2017, sea ice was exceptionally thick in April (although average in extent) and by June the sea ice was so thick and enduring that the Newfoundland fishing fleet couldn’t get out for spring openings; 2018 was another year of average sea ice extent and had even an even larger number of sightings than 2017, in Newfoundland especially (Crockford 2019:32). This suggests the sea ice vs. polar bear correlation on the East Coast since 2008 – if there even is one – may be the opposite of that stated in the CBC article: less ice usually means fewer bears onshore in Newfoundland and Labrador and more ice often means more bears.

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Whaling crews and their encounters with polar bears and sea ice in 17th century Svalbard

A new paper published today by Dagomar Degroot is a long but interesting historical account about sea ice and whaling in the 1600s around Svalbard that includes some details on interactions of whalers with polar bears (Figure 4 from the paper copied below). These were the early days of whaling in the Arctic: the wholesale slaughter of whales and polar bears didn’t happen until the 1800s.

The paper is open access, so free to download but I’ve copied the abstract and a short excerpt here.

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Dispelling the doomsday propaganda in DisneyNature’s new polar bear ‘documentary’

In a move that echoes the collaboration of activist organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF) with Netflix that brought us Sir David Attenborough’s walrus deception in ‘Our Planet’ that I chronicled in my latest book, ‘Fallen Icon’, streaming service DisneyNature has joined with activist organization Polar Bears International (PBI) to create a polar bear ‘documentary’ (called ‘Polar Bear’) that we can tell is propaganda because they’ve chosen to release the “cute and worrying” film on Earth Day (Friday 22 April 2022). In fact, the two films have a producer in common: Alastair Fothergill.

In the case of ‘Our Planet’, WWF bankrolled the film series for Netflix to ensure the content they desired; in ‘Polar Bear’, the tables are turned: DisneyNature is paying PBI for their assistance getting the polar bear film shots and providing their biased content, via money they are calling a research grant. I think you know by now what to expect. However, here are the facts about polar bear conditions in Svalbard, where the film was shot, and some good news from Western Hudson Bay this year, courtesy of Mike Reimer and his team at Churchill Wild. In short, there is still no climate emergency for polar bears: the hype is based on old models that failed spectacularly and new ones which depend on old data and totally improbable climate scenarios (Crockford 2017, 2019; Hausfather and Peters 2020; Molnar et al. 2020).

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Newfoundland polar bear sighting updates and video

Here is a Youtube video of the incident I wrote about on Tuesday, of the bear that climbed up on an elderly woman’s house in St. Anthony last Sunday and then confronted her when she opened the door.

Statements from local officials included with a follow-up news report of the incident confirms that there were indeed no polar bear sightings along the Labrador coast in 2020 and 2021 and few (if any) along the Newfoundland coast: it wasn’t just a case of reports not making the news. In addition, it also appears that sea ice conditions this year brought an abundance of harp seal pups to the waters off southern Labrador and Newfoundland, which may mean that pregnant harp seals were giving birth further north for the past two years and the Davis Strait bears were simply staying with them.

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More fat polar bear sightings around homes on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula

Two recent incidents really remind me of the opening scene in my polar bear attack thriller, EATEN, and this time both were captured on film. They involved bears in good physical condition and luckily, no one has been hurt. There is still sea ice off the Northern Peninsula, which has brought the bears from the north.

On Sunday (10 April) in St. Anthony, a woman was alerted by her dog to what she though was someone on the front porch and found herself literally face to face with a polar bear when she opened the door; it then hopped up on her roof. The next day, in Goose Cove, a woman watched two bears (probably a female with a two year old male cub) explore the outside of a neighbour’s house and then walk across her driveway.

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Another polar bear on Fogo, this time on the south shore as sea ice surrounds the island

On Friday, 8 April, a polar bear was photographed on the south coast of Fogo Island, Newfoundland at a time when sea ice surrounded the offshore island. The bear, spotted near North Side Road near Stag Harbour, was non-threatening to the point of being totally chilled out, but attracted enough human attention to cause traffic congestion. Another sighting a little more than a week ago near Tilting on the east side of the island could possibly have involved the same bear.

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Sea ice average for March is the metric used to compare to previous winters

The average sea ice cover at the end of March is the metric used to compare ‘winter’ ice to previous years or decades, not the single-day date of ‘most’ ice. This year, March ended with 14.6 mkm2 of sea ice, most of which (but not all) is critical polar bear habitat. Ice charts showing this are below.

But note that ice over Hudson Bay, which is an almost-enclosed sea used by thousands of polar bears at this time of year, tends to continue to thicken from March into May: these two charts for 2020 show medium green becoming dark green, indicating ice >1.2 m thick, even as some areas of open water appear.

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Polar bear attempted to break down front door of house in Newfoundland with people inside

A frightening incident just after midnight on Sunday left a woman and her daughter on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland shaken when a polar bear tried to break down their front door. Luckily for them, the bear was not starving and therefore not persistent: it soon stopped without doing much damage and neighbours were able to drive it away from the house. Again, the premise of my polar bear attack thriller, EATEN, is that the bear could have gotten into the house if it had really been motivated by hunger to do so. And what if that had happened and there were no neighbours to call for help?

There is still abundant ice around the northern Peninsula (see below), and gov’t officials are warning residents to be wary of other bears reported in the region. A CBC story on the incident quotes local wildlife officials as saying they “generally receive between 30 and 60 calls about polar bears annually. There have been 10 this year so far.” However, as I’ve pointed out previously, it appears this has only been true since 2012 or so: lots of bears visiting Newfoundland and Labrador in the spring is a relatively new phenomenon.

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