Tag Archives: Churchill

People go to Churchill to see polar bears in the wild and PBI controls the info they get

Polar Bears International is the non-profit organization that virtually rules the town of Churchill when it comes to informing naïve tourists about polar bears.  A million-dollar donation last year guaranteed the creation of a new building to permanently display PBI-generated information in downtown Churchill – previously limited to those visitors wealthy or influential enough to ride Tundra Buggies run by Frontiers North.

tundra buggy and bear_Frontiers North_wikipedia

PBI is an organization dedicated to the promotion of climate change rhetoric that currently purports to present unbiased scientific information about polar bears and climate change. It was founded by a retired marketing director andpolar bear enthusiast” in 2002 but its current leader is ‘chief scientist’ Steven Amstrup. Amstrup was almost single-handedly responsible for the failed survival model that got polar bears classified as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the US (Crockford 2017, Crockford 2019; Crockford and Geist 2018).

Amstrup’s model predicted that 2/3 of the world’s polar bears would be gone if sea ice got as low as it has been since 2007 but it was spectacularly wrong: polar bears are healthier and more numerous than 50 years ago.

Population size estimate graph chapter 10

Global polar bear population size estimates to 2018. From Chapter 10 of The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened (Crockford 2019).

Amstrup presented his firmly-held opinions as if they were scientific facts but observations have shown his guesses were incorrect. But he refuses to acknowledge this and PBI continues to spead a message of impending doom [my bold]:

“This year’s polar bear season is going to be big for our team, perhaps our biggest yet. Not only do we have an amazing schedule of Tundra Connections webcasts and live chats, but we’re also working with an array of media to tell stories and spread awareness about polar bears and the threats they face in a warming Arctic. This is especially important following another summer of massive sea ice loss in the Arctic and amidst overwhelming global momentum pressuring world leaders to address the climate crisis.”

Below is an excerpt from an interesting story from 2010 on how PBI controls the ‘polar-bears-are-doomed/save-our-sea-ice‘ narrative presented to the media and innocent tourists who just come to see polar bears in the wild.

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Churchill polar bear activity report for week 7 shows oddly few problems so far

It’s week 7 of the Churchill polar bear season that began in early July and it’s been remarkably quiet: compared to 208 and 2016, there were half as many problem bear incidents in 2019. A few bears have come off the ice near the community and they’ve been in good shape, as are the bears to the east at Cape Churchill (see one captured on live cam 23 August shown below) and the north at Seal River.

churchill-fat-bear-cape-east-23-aug-2019_explore-dot-org-cam.jpg

But it looks like many more bears than usual may have decided to ride out the slow-melting ice that lingered well past the first week of August and came ashore further south, towards the Manitoba/Ontario border.

Sea ice Canada 2019 Aug 7

If so, these bears will have to make their way north over the summer so they can intercept the first ice forming along the northwest coast off Wapusk National Park near Churchill. That’s why Western Hudson Bay bears are said to undergo a migration: no matter where they leave the ice in summer, most bears head to areas around Churchill so that they can resume seal hunting on the early fall ice.

Wapusk Nat Park_Hudson Bay_Google maps_w Churchill

A paucity of bears around Churchill in late summer/early fall is not unprecedented, however. Stirling and colleagues pointed out that in 1972 and 1973, for reasons they could not explain, there had been fewer bears than usual around Churchill well before freeze-up and therefore, fewer problem bears (Stirling et al. 1977:17).

Below is a comparison of the Polar Bear Alert Program report for last week (Week 7, Aug 19-25) to previous years.

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Not predicted: more sea ice than average in southern-most Arctic first week of August

Polar bear habitat update for the first week of August 2019 shows there is still more sea ice than average in Hudson Bay, the southern-most area of continuous habitation for this species. That certainly wasn’t part of the predictions of doom, especially since freeze-up in that region for the last two years has also been earlier-than-average which means a shorter ice-free season than we’ve seen for decades.

Hudson Bay weekly departure from normal 2019 Aug 5

Despite ice coverage for the Arctic ice as a whole being marginally lower than it has been since 1979 for this time of year, sea ice for the first week of August was also above average around Svalbard in the Barents Sea and higher than the last few years in the Central Arctic, which is a critical summer refugium for polar bears that live in the peripheral seas of the Arctic Ocean, including the Chukchi (see photo below, taken in early August 2018).

Chukchi Sea polar bear Arctic_early August 2018_A Khan NSIDC small

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Sea ice adjacent to all major polar bear onshore summer refugia at 31 July 2019

For all the hand-wringing over sea ice extent this year and its supposed similarity to 2012, what is truly remarkable is that at the end of July ice remains adjacent to every single major terrestrial summer refugia known to be important for polar bears. Those refugia sites include (from west to east, starting in the Chukchi Sea): Wrangel Island, western Chukotka, Severnaya Zemlya, Franz Josef Land, East Greenland, virtually all the islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (including Southampton Island in Foxe Basin and the southwest and eastern coasts of Baffin Island), and Western Hudson Bay.

masie_all_zoom_4km 2019 July 31

Few bears spend the entire summer onshore along the Alaska coast: most still spend the summer on the sea ice and move with it as it contracts toward the Arctic Basin, as do many bears in the Barents, Kara, East Siberian, and Chukchi Seas. Until a few weeks ago, however, there was enough ice present that Beaufort Sea bears could go ashore if they wanted to do so. Continue reading

First Churchill problem polar bear report of the season: its only incident caught on film

We are constantly told things are getting worse for polar bears, especially those in Western Hudson Bay, because the ice-free season there was predicted to decline earlier than other regions. It hasn’t turned out that way but that does not stop the public rhetoric of doom or NGOs pleading for funds.

Last week, the Town of Churchill made public its first problem polar bear report of the year but oddly, it has only one entry.  This is the first time I’ve seen such a sparse first report:  since 2015, the first few incidents of the season have been subsumed into a first week report (issued no earlier than the first week of July) that announces the arrival of many bears on land.

Churchill problem bears_week 1_2019 July 8-14

Is this report of an isolated incident an attempt by Polar Bear Alert officials to make sure the first report of the season was not issued weeks later than usual? Or was it posted in isolation because the official response to the incident was caught on video and shared on social media (see below)?

UPDATE 22 July 2019: Published early this afternoon by the Town of Churchill, the problem polar bear report for the 2nd week of the season claims an error in last week’s report that they only just noticed when preparing this week’s report (but a full 24 hours after this blog post was published – but that’s probably a coincidence). Below is the report for week 2 (15-21 July 2019), showing that three incidents occurred last week.

Churchill problem bears_week 2_2019 July 15-21

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First polar bear spotted off the ice in Western Hudson Bay is fat and healthy

One of the first of hundreds of polar bears expected to come off the sea ice of Hudson Bay along the west and south coasts was captured on video on 5 July. This is only the first wave, as there is still so much ice remaining that most of the bears are likely to remain offshore: not because there is so much food available (few seals are caught at this time of year) but because the ice is where they are most comfortable.

Churchill_first polar bear at Cape Churchill 5 July 2019 on explore dot org cam screencap

 

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Historic hot spells in Churchill, Polar Bear Capital of the World, in late June/early July

Amid reports of a late June heat wave in Europe this year, I thought I would check out the temperature in Churchill, Manitoba – where sea ice off the coast has been rather slow to melt this year with no reports yet of polar bears onshore. It turns out that Churchill has fairly often seen very hot weather (around 900F/300C) for a few days at this time of year but 2019 has certainly not been one of them. Temperatures in Churchill on 28 June this year were about 40 degress F below previous highs (more than 15 degrees C) according to online Environment Canada weather comparison reports that go back to 1943 (although their records for Churchill go back to 1929).

Polar bear on ice_SARA registry webpage_gov Can

High for 28 June 2019: 44.4 F/7.1 C

Hottest year, late June: 90.0 F/32.2 C on 29 June 1984 [also 87.8 F/30.6 C on 26 June 1967]

Hottest year, early July:  93.0 F/33.9 C on 4 July, 1975 [also 91.0 F/32.8 C on 3 July 1976]

Bottom line: It is appropriate to scoff at anyone who claims it never got hot in the Arctic before sea ice declined markedly around the turn of the 21st century. For Churchill (self-proclaimed Polar Bear Capital of the World), there are plenty of records of brief spells of hot weather in late spring/early summer (as well as in other months) that go back to the decades when sea ice conditions were supposedly ideal for polar bears.

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