Tag Archives: satellite images

Behold the walrus publicity stunt the WWF calls ‘science’

All you can do is laugh, really. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been pushing for years to position itself as a valid scientific authority but the kinds of projects they get involved with generally have little to do with real science and more to do with promoting their brand and its doomsday climate change narrative. The most recent example is a ‘Count walrus from space‘ ploy that is enlisting elementary school aged children and other members of the public to count Atlantic walrus from satellite photos, which the Washington Post obligingly promoted last week (proving the WWF massive free publicity).

WWF roped someone from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) into the four year scheme, which makes it seem like legitimate, real science. With this initiative, the WWF are strongly pushing a story that walrus throughout the Arctic are threatened by climate change due to melting Arctic sea ice. They have been doing this actively since 2015, as seen with their collaboration with Netflix and Sir David Attenborough in the ‘Our Planet’ Pacific walrus extravaganza that blew up into a massive controversy. I have more to say on that in my next book, whose publication is unfortunately behind schedule but will hopefully be out soon.

The first problem with this plan is that evidence is lacking to support the claim that walrus have been harmed by recent declines in sea ice. Despite current low numbers, Atlantic walrus are more abundant today than they were 100 years ago, after decades of commercial hunting reduced populations to near extinction levels (Born et al. 1995; Wiig et al. 2014).

The second problem is that walrus at land haulouts in summer or fall are notoriously difficult for professional scientists to count even from aerial photographs. The idea that children as young as nine years old can contribute to generating a more accurate count from satellite images is ludicrous.

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Tracking polar bears in the Southern Beaufort, with a sea ice surprise – April 2015 map

USGS biologists were clearly busy this spring putting more satellite radio collars and glue-on tags on Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears but there’s some surprising information in their April 2015 tracking map about current sea ice conditions.

From the 2013-2014 issue of  “Polar Bear News” (USFWS).

From the 2013-2014 issue of “Polar Bear News” (USFWS).

What’s interesting is that the sea ice maps they use show less dark spots that might be open water this year than were present last year in late April. Oddly, this phenomenon has one prominent biologist worried about “challenging” polar bear habitat developing this year – without mentioning last year at all.

The USGS track map for April 2015 is copied below.1
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Counting bears from space can be just as accurate as by helicopter, claims new study

Satellites images might be able to replace aerial counts of polar bears in some places — if there are no clouds. But it seldom distinguishes cubs and can’t tell males from females, found a 2012 study of Foxe Basin bears that’s just been published.

Foxe Basin polar_bears_rowley_island_Stapleton 2012 press photo labeled sm

Note: This is my 200th post since July 26, 2012!

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