Tag Archives: observations

Russian walrus and polar bears continue to thrive US researchers tell the Washington Post

Interviews with US researchers for a piece in the Washington Post earlier today contain revelations that walrus and polar bear populations in the Russian Far East continue to thrive, despite insisting that polar bears face a dire future without human interference.

This article on collateral damage of Russia’s war with Ukraine comes with this stunning sub-headline:

The invasion [of Ukraine] is first and foremost a human tragedy, but it is also dire for wildlife, stalling scientific work on polar bears and other wildlife threatened with extinction.

The article prominently features a researcher working on Chukchi sea polar bears, which are currently thriving but still tagged with a status of “threatened” based entirely on computer models that predict a dire outcome 30 years from now. The writer also interviewed a scientist working on Pacific walrus, which likely number more than 200,000 animals and are not considered “threatened,” a point oddly not mentioned by the author or the researcher interviewed (Crockford 2023; MacCracken et al. 2017; Fischbach et al. 2022; USFWS 2017a,b).

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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.

Simplified Arctic sea ice predictions vs. observations up to 2007 by Stroeve et al. 2007 (courtesy Wikimedia). Sea ice hit an even lower extent in 2012 and all years since then have been below these predicted levels.

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).

From Stoeve et al. 2014, courtesy NSIDC January 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).

In 2012, NOAA sea ice experts summarized this sea ice loss as “reduced by nearly 50%” since 1979:

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).

This was not what had been predicted when the bears were listed as ‘threatened’ in 2008.

Conclusion: Despite the Arctic warming four times as fast as the rest of the world with rising CO2 levels and almost 50% less summer ice than there was in 1979, polar bears are no closer to extinction than they were 15 years ago, according to the results of field studies. There is no existential emergency for polar bears or any other Arctic sea mammals due to declining summer sea ice, despite continued messages of doom from remorseless experts.


Amstrup, S.C., Marcot, B.G. & Douglas, D.C. 2007. Forecasting the rangewide status of polar bears at selected times in the 21st century. US Geological Survey. Reston, VA. Pdf here

Conn, P.B., Chernook, V.I., Moreland, E.E., et al. 2021. Aerial survey estimates of polar bears and their tracks in the Chukchi Sea. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0251130. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0251130

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.

Pielke, R., and Ritchie, J. 2021. How climate scenarios lost touch with reality. Issues in Science and Technology 37(4): 74-83. https://issues.org/climate-change-scenarios-lost-touch-reality-pielke-ritchie/

Pielke Jr, R., and Ritchie, J. 2021. Distorting the view of our climate future: The misuse and abuse of climate pathways and scenarios. Energy Research & Social Science72: 101890. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2214629620304655

Regehr, E.V., Laidre, K.L, Akçakaya, H.R., Amstrup, S.C., Atwood, T.C., Lunn, N.J., Obbard, M., Stern, H., Thiemann, G.W., & Wiig, Ø. 2016. Conservation status of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in relation to projected sea-ice declines. Biology Letters 12: 20160556. http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/12/12/20160556 Supplementary data here.

Rode, K.D., Regehr, E.V., Douglas, D., et al. 2014. Variation in the response of an Arctic top predator experiencing habitat loss: feeding and reproductive ecology of two polar bear populations. Global Change Biology 20(1):76-88. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12339/abstract

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

Stroeve, J., Holland, M.M., Meier, W., Scambos, T. and Serreze, M. 2007. Arctic sea ice decline: Faster than forecast. Geophysical Research Letters 34:L09501. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2007GL029703

Stroeve, J.C., Markus, T., Boisert, L., et al. 2014. Changes in Arctic melt season and implications for sea ice loss. Geophysical Research Letters 10.1002/2013GL058951. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2013GL058951

Swart, N.C., Fyfe, J.C., Hawkins, E. et al. 2015. Influence of internal variability on Arctic sea ice trends. Nature Climate Change 5:86-89.

Published field study observations – not population size – prove polar bears are thriving

There is irrefutable evidence from Barents and Chukchi Sea subpopulations, among others, that polar bears are fat and reproducing well despite marked declines in summer sea ice over the last two decades. These indicators of physical and reproductive health, in any species, are signs of thriving populations. However, these facts negate the premise that polar bears require abundant summer sea ice to flourish, and that creates a problem for polar bear specialists who continue to make that claim (Amstrup et al. 2007; Crockford 2017, 2019).

Enormously fat Chukchi Sea polar bear, USFWS.

In other words, the assessment that polar bears are currently thriving is not based solely on estimates of a slight increase in global population size but on published data gathered from field studies on the bears’ physical and reproductive health.

Oddly, biologists repeatedly turn to data from Western Hudson Bay to drive home to the public their preferred message that polar bear health and abundance are being negatively affected by recent summer sea ice declines. However, they fail to mention that robust field data from many other regions, including the Barents and Chukchi Seas, support the opposite conclusion. Moreover, wherever possible, they mumble under their breath (or leave out entirely) the fact that poor ice conditions could not be blamed for a 27% decline in polar bear numbers in Western Hudson Bay since 2016 — because their own data showed sea ice conditions had been strong!

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Emperor penguin ESA listing in 2022 used Antarctic sea ice models known to be flawed

While Arctic sea ice has declined remarkably since 1979, Antarctic ice has been unexpectedly stable. Experts acknowledge that existing climate models–which assume that CO2 emissions drive global sea ice loss–had predicted Antarctic sea ice would have declined over the last several decades–and would decline even more in the future. They’ve finally admitted they were wrong.

John Turner (British Antarctic Survey) and Josifino Comiso (NASA) in a NATURE paper in 2017:

Current climate models struggle to simulate the seasonal and regional variability seen in Antarctic sea ice.

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Why the Covid-19 epidemic is essentially over & current PCR testing protocols are pointless

This is a very good short paper on the current state of the Covid-19 epidemic by two UK respiratory disease researchers that is well worth the read, with a good coverage of the problems with models and PCR testing that is encouraging some governments to renew the panic and restrictions initiated back in March.
Svalbard social distancing_keep one polar bear away_icepeople 3 April 2020
Understanding Covid-19 is pertinent to this blog topic, not least because virtually all polar bear field research has been shut down for the year worldwide, with no indications restrictions will be lifted over the next few months: an entire year’s worth of data will be missing for all kinds of studies. Small Arctic communities that traditionally provided essential logistical support for these studies also tend to have a high proportion of vulnerable citizens and so remain closed to the outside world. Restrictions on travel – the border between the US and Canada remains closed to all but essential traffic – and limits on size of gatherings mean that the government response to this illness has severely impacted my public activities.
Have a look at this important referenced essay: I’ve copied the Executive Summary below.

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Sceptical covid-19 research and sceptical polar bear science: is there a difference?

This essay about medical researchers having trouble getting their papers published because the results don’t support the official pandemic narrative has disturbing parallels with my experience trying to inject some balance into the official polar bear conservation narrative.1 Especially poignant is the mention of models built on assumptions sold as ‘facts’ that fail once data (i.e. evidence) become available – which of course is the entire point of my latest book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened.

Read the commentary below, copied from Lockdownsceptics.org (6 September 2020). Bold in original, link added to the story to which this is a response, and brief notes and links added as footnotes for parallels with polar bear conservation science. Continue reading

2019 Alaska aerial survey found the most polar bears since 2012 – dozens of fat healthy bears

This aerial shot of six fat polar bears lolling around on a sand beach on the coast of the Southern Beaufort Sea, Alaska, was taken by NOAA employees in July 2019. It exemplifies the reality that bears in this subpopulation are currently abundant and healthy, negating the suggestion that numbers have continued to drop since 2006 because bears are starving.

Six fat polar bear wallow in SB sand_NOAA summer 2019

The above picture of polar bear health is not an exception but the rule for all 31 bears recorded onshore last July, as the photos below from other locations testify. Those who would blame this abundance of bears on lack of sea ice in 2019 should note that ice retreated as early and as extensively in 2017 yet only 3 bears were spotted onshore. Results of a recent (2017-2018) population survey, which have not yet been made public, will of course not reflect conditions seen in 2019.

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Norwegian polar bears continue to thrive in 2019: Svalbard spring study results are in

Results from spring Norwegian fieldwork in the Svalbard region of the Barents Sea are in and they show that despite having to deal with the most extreme loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, polar bears in this region continue to thrive.

Svalbard polarbear-helicopter-npolar-framcentre

Svalbard polar bear territory (managed by Norway) includes sea ice to the Russian boarder to the east as well as the area around the Svalbard archipelago: the map below is from Aars et al. 2017.

Aars et a. 2017 Figure 1

Observations were collected around Svalbard by a team lead by Jon Aars and Magnus Andersen of the Norwegian Polar Institute between March and May this year, and posted online 4 June 2019. Kudos to them for making their on-going observations and analysis available, in a timely manner for all to see.

Note that Svalbard is the western half of the ‘Barents Sea’ polar bear subpopulation: in recent years, most of the region’s polar bears have been living around Franz Josef Land in the eastern (Russian) sector where Norwegian researchers are not permitted to work.

Barents Sea with Franz Josef Land

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Now 20 years with no trend in ice breakup dates for Western Hudson Bay polar bears

Straight from the horse’s mouth: all polar bear females tagged by researchers around Churchill in Western Hudson Bay last year were still on the ice as of 25 June. With plenty of ice still remaining over the bay, spring breakup will be no earlier this year than it has been since 1999. Contrary to predictions of ever-declining ice cover, the lack of a trend in sea ice breakup dates for Western Hudson Bay is now twenty years long (a hiatus, if you will) and yet these bears are repeatedly claimed to have been seriously harmed in recent years by a loss of sea ice.

Derocher 2019 WHB collared females 25 June all bears still on the ice

In fact, WH bears have faced relatively few ‘early’ years of sea ice breakup and breakup has never come before the 15th of June. The earliest recent spring breakup date did not come in 2012 – when sea ice hit a summer record low – but in 1999, when Hudson Bay sea ice suddenly began to melt by late June rather than mid-July (Cherry et al. 2013; Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017; Lunn et al. 2016). And this year, as has been the case since 1999, breakup looks to be about two weeks later (give or take a week or so, at around 1 July), than was the case in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In other words, there has been no escalation of breakup dates since 1999: there has been no declining trend in breakup dates for Western Hudson Bay polar bears for 20 years (and no trend in fall freeze-up dates either).

UPDATE 26 June 2019: Here is the latest sea ice chart for the week of 24 June 2019 from the Canadian Ice Service (all that dark green is thick first year ice >1 m thick):

Hudson Bay weekly stage of development 2019 June 24
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Photographer’s claims that Inuit hunting is unsustainable are not supported

A campaign by an anti-hunting Norwegian photographer to destroy the market for legally-hunted polar bears in Canada makes a few disturbingly false claims and an article at National Geographic in which he is quoted further distorts the picture of polar bear conservation. I understand that some people object to hunting and wish more people felt like they do – but this sort of argument is unlikely to sway any but the most gullible.

Cover photo Ole J Liodden small web

Norwegian photographer Ole Liodden apparently has a master’s degree in “nature management and environmental policy“. He takes fabulous polar bear pictures (I purchased one of them, above, for the cover of my novel, EATEN) but his crusade to ban hunting and trade in polar bear products world-wide has lead him to misrepresent essential facts, which is no way to win an argument. A National Geographic writer and several polar bear specialists have provided additional spin and used it as an excuse to promote their failed prophesies that polar bears are doomed: “Should polar bear hunting be legal? It’s complicated” (28 May 2019).

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