Posted onJuly 14, 2023|Comments Off on Hudson Bay sea ice loss has not accelerated since 2014: in fact, summer ice cover has improved
This is an early breakup year for Hudson Bay but sea ice loss has not been accelerating. While some Western Hudson Bay bears have been on land for weeks, others are still out on melting remnants of sea ice, much of it invisible to satellites. This is only the third year since 2014 that the bay has had less than usual amounts of ice, which means most years since then have had normal or nearly normal ice coverage, similar to the 1980s. Hardly the ever-worsening catastrophe of sea ice loss story being spun in the media for Western Hudson Bay polar bears.
From the tracking map above, out of the 38 visible tags or collars on bears at 11 July 2023, 16 bears (42%) were on land and 22 (58%) were still out on the sea ice. That’s virtually identical to the 40/60 percent split last week when there was even more ice.
Posted onMarch 20, 2023|Comments Off on 15 years after ESA listing as ‘threatened’ due to sea ice loss polar bears are abundant & thriving
Experts who used the American Endangered Species Act (ESA) to list polar bears as ‘threatened’ in May 2008 were mistaken: sea ice authorities got their predictions wrong about future ice extent and polar bear specialists erroneously declared that two-thirds of polar bears would disappear if summer sea ice declines continued unabated.
By 2007, there was even less summer sea ice than computer models of the day had predicted (Stroeve et al. 2007, see red line on graph below) and in 2012, it dropped to just above 3 mkm2.
Updated sea ice predictions published in 2014 by the Stroeve team (see below) went to the other extreme, using totally implausible RCP 8.5 scenarios to predict a virtually ice-free Arctic (< 1 mkm2 ice extent) before 2040, which seem just as likely to be just as wrong as their 2007 attempt (Hausfather and Peters 2020; Pielke and Ritchie 2021; Stroeve et al. 2007, 2014; Swart et al. 2015).
In fact, for 12 years out of the last 15, summer ice extent has been below 5.0 mkm2 (often well below), which polar bear experts had not anticipated would happen until at least 2050 (Amstrup et al. 2006).
Despite this dramatic decline in sea ice, polar bears are still abundant and thriving because polar bear specialists got it wrong about the bears’ need for this habitat in summer (Crockford 2017, 2019; Crockford and Geist 2018). Polar bear turned out to be more flexible and resilient than predicted and many subpopulations are better off than before. Davis Strait and Chukchi Sea bears are doing very well: Barents Sea bears in particular are thriving despite by far the most sea ice loss of any Arctic region (e.g. Conn et al. 2021; Frey et al. 2022; Haavik 2022; Lippold et al. 2019; Peacock et al. 2013; Regehr et al. 2018; Rode et al. 2014, 2018, 2021, 2022).
Crockford, S.J. 2017. Testing the hypothesis that routine sea ice coverage of 3-5 mkm2 results in a greater than 30% decline in population size of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). PeerJ Preprints 19 January 2017. Doi: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v1 Open access. https://peerj.com/preprints/2737/
Crockford, S.J. 2019. The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened. Global Warming Policy Foundation, London. Available in paperback and ebook formats.
Crockford, S.J. and Geist, V. 2018. Conservation Fiasco. Range Magazine, Winter 2017/2018, pg. 26-27. Pdf here.
Frey, K.E., Comiso, J.C., Cooper, L.W., et al. 2022. Arctic Ocean primary productivity: the response of marine algae to climate warming and sea ice decline. 2022 NOAA Arctic Report Card, https://doi.org/10.25923/0je1-te61
Haavik, E. 2022. ‘Svalbard’s polar bears persist as sea ice melts — but not forever. The World, 21 July.
Hausfather, Z. and Peters, G.P. 2020. Emissions – the ‘business as usual’ story is misleading [“Stop using the worst-case scenario for climate warming as the most likely outcome — more-realistic baselines make for better policy”]. Nature 577: 618-620. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00177-3
Lippold, A., Bourgeon, S., Aars, J., et al. 2019. Temporal trends of persistent organic pollutants in Barents Sea polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in relation to changes in feeding habits and body condition. Environmental Science and Technology 53(2):984-995.
Rode, K.D., Olson, J., Eggett, D., et al. 2018. Den phenology and reproductive success of polar bears in a changing climate. Journal of Mammalogy 99(1):16-26. here.
Rode, K. D., Regehr, E.V., Bromaghin, J. F., et al. 2021. Seal body condition and atmospheric circulation patterns influence polar bear body condition, recruitment, and feeding ecology in the Chukchi Sea. Global Change Biology 27:2684–2701. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15572
Rode, K.D., Douglas, D.C., Atwood, T.C., et al. 2022. Observed and forecasted changes in land use by polar bears in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, 1985-2040. Global Ecology and Conservation 40: e02319. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2022.e02319
Posted onFebruary 27, 2023|Comments Off on Polar Wildlife Report reveals Arctic and Antarctic animals were thriving in 2022
The Polar Wildlife Report is a peer reviewed summary of the most recent information on polar animals, relative to historical records, based on a review of 2022 scientific literature and media reports. It is intended for a wide audience, including scientists, teachers, students, decision-makers and the general public interested in animals that live in Arctic and Antarctic habitats, including polar bears, killer whales, krill, and penguins.
Posted onDecember 14, 2022|Comments Off on Arctic Report: primary productivity still high & sea ice flatline continues despite warmer temperatures
NOAAs annual Arctic Report Card is, for the most part, a valiant effort to turn good and ambiguous news into harbingers of climate change disaster. Primary productivity is up across most of the region (good news for wildlife) and despite Arctic temperatures being “twice as high” as the rest of the world in recent years, the summer sea ice ‘death spiral’ has failed to materialize.
Oddly, there is no bad news about polar bears (last mention was 2014). However, the media were told that the few hundred sea birds that died this year in the enormous Bering/Chukchi Sea region over the four months of summer in 2022 is a portend of climate change catastrophe–even though the authors of the NOAA report admit they have no conclusive evidence to explain the phenomenon. However, here are also some honest figures that are quite illuminating.
UPDATE 12 November 2022. One of the independents on the ground near Churchill had this to say about the bears and freeze-up conditions this year:
“Bears started leaving on November 10; conservation emptied the jail on the 10th as well.”
[the 10th was the day this post was originally published; ‘the jail’ is the Churchill Polar Bear Alert Program’s ‘holding facility’, see report below]. This information suggests the average date for bears leaving shore will likely turn out to be 12-14 November, again earlier than the average for the 1980s (16 Nov +/- 5 days). There may still be a few bears on the shore of Wapusk National Park that seem to be in no hurry to leave, but a few stragglers doesn’t mean there isn’t ice available for hunting.
In fact, the summer sea ice trend has been pretty much flat since 2007, with ice covering about 42% less area than it had done in 1979, yet polar bears in many regions are doing better now than they were in 2005, especially in Davis Strait, the Barents and Chukchi Seas and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
Posted onDecember 31, 2021|Comments Off on 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.
Posted onSeptember 30, 2021|Comments Off on Sea ice growth after the summer minimum begins in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago
The Arctic sea ice minimum was declared to have been reached on 16 September this year (4.72 mkm2), breaking no records.
Ice extent can only go up from this point forward but at this time of year, it happens slowly and isn’t noticeable in the Arctic Basin as much as it is in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. As I wrote about last year, new ice development in the fall next to shore creates upwelling conditions that attract fish and seals, and therefore provides feeding opportunities for polar bears.
The same process likely happens when new ice forms next to old ice. These few weeks of developing sea ice, wherever they occur, are the last chance polar bears have to replace weight lost over the summer before the cold and darkness of winter reduces hunting opportunities to virtually nil.
Posted onSeptember 1, 2021|Comments Off on My new science book for kids Walrus Facts & Myths is available now!
I am thrilled announce that my new science book for kids, Walrus Facts & Myths is now available for sale on Amazon. This unique book fills an enormous need.
Thanks to media reports and television documentaries – here’s looking at you David Attenborough – many children around the world have been led to believe that walrus are dying in large numbers every year because of reduced sea ice. This has left kids feeling despondent and powerless. The relentless messaging that walrus are doomed (and that it’s all the fault of humans burning fossil fuels) is fortunately false. It’s time the children learned the truth and now, there’s a book for that!
This is a walrus science book for kids with lots of great photos and a format that readers of all ages will enjoy.
My nonfiction book for adults Fallen Icon: David Attenborough and the Walrus Deception, will be released in a few weeks but here is a science book just for the kids. If the children in your life enjoyed Polar Bear Facts & Myths, I’m sure they’ll love this one too. The colour photos are beautiful and engaging. It’s also perfect for homeschoolers wanting to learn about Arctic ecology and walrus life history.