Posted onMarch 16, 2023|Comments Off on Return of Svalbard sea ice in time for seal births and the polar bear feeding bonanza
It seems that every fall and winter for the last decade at least, there has been hand-wringing about the lack of Svalbard sea ice and what a tragedy this is for polar bears. And like clockwork, before the end of winter (30 March) every year, the pack ice returns in time for spring: for ringed and bearded seals to give birth–and for the polar bears to gorge themselves on the fat newborns.
This year there is even ice as far south as Bear Island (Bjørnøya) and it’s only 15 March. This has happened several times now in the last 10 year. So much for the catastrophe! And soon Norwegian biologists will be out checking on the health of these bears, which they do every year and report their results online for everyone to see.
This year is a different story completely. It’s only early January and already there is abundant ice along the west coast of Novaya Zemlya; ice in the Barents Sea in general is well up over recent averages and the pack is already converging on Bear Island (Bjørnøya) to the south of the Svalbard archipelago. Ice this far south often brings polar bear visitors to the weather station there but that doesn’t usually happen until March or April.
You’ll find references in previous posts linked here.
Posted onMay 15, 2020|Comments Off on Still pack ice around Bear Island in the Barents Sea on 15 May: last time was 2003
It’s very open drift ice (1-4/10th concentration) but still: Bear Island (Bjørnøya) in the southern Barents Sea was still surrounded by pack ice at 15 May 2020. As far as I can tell from the Norwegian Ice Service archived ice charts, this hasn’t happened since 2003.
And last week, the island was surrounded by heavy drift ice, which hadn’t happened on 8 May since 1977.
Posted onApril 30, 2020|Comments Off on Svalbard at end of April again has 6th-7th highest sea ice extent & a lot of very thick ice
For the second time this month, sea ice around Svalbard Norway was the 6th or 7th highest since records began in the late 1960s. Pack ice at the end of April still surrounds Bear Island (Bjørnøya) at the southern end of the archipelago, which is a rare occurrence at this date. These conditions document a recurrent pattern of high ice extent and especially extreme ice thickness in the Barents Sea since last summer.
Posted onApril 8, 2020|Comments Off on Highest Svalbard sea ice since 1988 with Bear Island in the south surrounded
From 3-7 April this year, sea ice around Svalbard Norway has been the highest since 1988, but only 6th or 7th highest since records began in the 1970s. Pack ice is year surrounds Bear Island (Bjørnøya) at the southern end of the archipelago for the first time since 2009 at this date, and continues the pattern of high extent and thickness of ice in the Barents Sea since last summer.
Posted onFebruary 14, 2020|Comments Off on Polar bear habitat at mid-winter as extensive as 2013 & better than 2006
Arctic sea ice at the middle of winter (January-March) is a measure of what’s to come because winter ice is the set-up for early spring, the time when polar bears do most of their feeding on young seals.
[Mid-winter photos of polar bears are hard to come by, partly because the Arctic is still dark for most hours of the day, it’s still bitterly cold, and scientists don’t venture out to do work on polar bears until the end of March at the earliest]
At 12 February this year, the ice was similar in overall extent to 2013 but higher than 2006.
Posted onJuly 31, 2019|Comments Off on Polar bear spotted on Bear Island (Barents Sea) this winter for the first time in 8 years
A polar bear was spotted this year on Bear Island (Bjørnøya) in the southern Barents Sea on 8 March by the crew at the Meteorological Station. The last time these workers had seen a polar bear was 2011 but this year extensive Barents Sea ice literally brought a bear to their doorstep, similar to the way that sea ice brings bears to southern Labrador and Newfoundland in late winter and spring.
After below-average ice cover around Svalbard for most of the winter months of January and February, by early March the ice had expanded so far to the south it reached Bjørnøya. It was the kind of ice that hadn’t been seen in decades and almost immediately, a polar bear was spotted on shore. Given the length of time that the ice surrounding the island persisted, it is likely more bears came ashore but were not seen: the Meteorological Station at the north end of the island is the only place that people live over the winter (see maps below).
Posted onMarch 12, 2019|Comments Off on Polar bear habitat update: abundant sea ice across the Arctic, even in the Barents Sea
Abundant ice in Svalbard, East Greenland and the Labrador Sea is excellent news for the spring feeding season ahead because this is when bears truly need the presence of ice for hunting and mating. As far as I can tell, sea ice has not reached Bear Island, Norway at this time of year since 2010 but this year ice moved down to the island on 3 March and has been there ever since. This may mean we’ll be getting reports of polar bear sightings from the meteorological station there, so stay tuned.
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