Tag Archives: sea ice

Some of the first polar bears onshore in Western Hudson Bay are in excellent condition

From the live cams installed on beluga tour boats running near the Churchill River, we have some good photos of a few fat polar bears onshore in Western Hudson Bay.

These bears were attracted to the remnants of a beluga carcass with nothing much left on it (lower right in the photo) and stayed around for at least a few days. The female with her cub-of-the-year was remarkably tolerant of an adult male nearby.

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Arctic sea ice still quite abundant for early summer

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, there is still plenty of sea ice over Arctic regions this summer, supplying feeding platforms for polar bears, ice-dependent seals, and walrus cows nursing their young calves. Forget about whether the numbers are below or above some short-term average, there is no catastrophe in the making for marine mammals in the Arctic at this time.

Remember, by early summer, young seals have left the surface of the ice and are in the water feeding; predator-savvy adults and subadults are hauled out on broken chunks of ice moulting their hair-coat. They may look like sitting ducks but polar bears have a hard time catching them because the seals are vigilant and have many escape routes available (due to all the open water). Most polar bears in Hudson Bay are still on the ice (you’ll see why below): the live cams near Churchill set up to watch polar bears are presently showing images of ravens with sea ice in the background, not bears.

This post is predominantly sea ice charts for mid-July, what we in the science field call observational evidence, aka ‘facts’. Keep in mind that satellites used to produce these images have an especially hard time distinguishing ice topped with melt water from open water, which means much more ice useful to these marine mammals is almost certainly present than is shown in the charts (as much as 20% more in some regions).

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Arctic sea ice is constantly changing which means polar bears must be flexible in their requirements

In honour of upcoming ‘Arctic Sea Ice Day’ (15 July), I revisit my 2015 essay on sea ice stability and polar bears, called The Arctic Fallacy. It challenges the flawed and out-dated ecological concept that under natural conditions, sea ice provides a stable and predictable habitat for polar bears, walrus and seals. The wide-spread adoption of this fallacy has allowed the present-day doom and gloom attitude of most Arctic specialists to develop.

[Polar Bears International have declared July 15 to be ‘Arctic Sea Ice Day’ to further its propaganda efforts to ‘save our sea ice’, which they claim is disappearing at an alarming rate due to global warming.]

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First tagged W Hudson Bay polar bear comes ashore

On the 8th July, the first of almost two dozen tagged or collared polar bears came ashore in Western Hudson Bay (WH) under unusual sea ice conditions. How does this compare to previous years?

Image above is from last year (6 July 2021): we haven’t yet had a sighting from the live cams on the shore of Wapusk National Park near Churchill reported at Explore.org.

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Hudson Bay polar bears still have lots of ice at July 1

Although some have come ashore in the north around Arviat, most polar bears are still on the ice. Disaster averted for another season as predictions of doom fail to meet reality.

24 June 2022, courtesy Gordy Kidlapik at Arviat (via twitter).

Sea ice on Hudson Bay is still abundant in the southwest sector, including around Churchill, and much of that is still thick first year ice (>1.2m thick, dark green on the ‘stage of development’ charts).

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New polar bear subpopulation update: more background facts and details from the paper

Here are the facts you need to put into context the claim that the estimated 234 polar bears recently discovered in SE Greenland have been living ‘without sea ice‘.

The unique genetic isolation of this new subpopulation makes it one of the most interesting discoveries about polar bears we’ve seen in decades, yet the media were primed by a press release loaded with dooms-day climate rhetoric to focus exclusively on the model-predicted precarious future of the species, like this gem from the lead author:

“In a sense, these bears provide a glimpse into how Greenland’s bears may fare under future climate scenarios,” Laidre said. “The sea ice conditions in Southeast Greenland today resemble what’s predicted for Northeast Greenland by late this century.”

As a consequence, the media have been trying to out-do each other with the most over-the-top climate catastrophe headlines, see here and here. The authors of paper itself and a companion piece do the same: instead of focusing on the exciting scientific implications of the genetically isolated population they discovered, they promote the preferred narrative that polar bears have a bleak future and lecture the public (yet again) about the need for limiting CO2 emissions (Laidre et al. 2022; Peacock 2022).

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My scientific blog posts contributed to the failed Antarctic Treaty bid to protect Emperor penguins

There is actual evidence that two of my fully-referenced blog posts caused some Antarctic Treaty delegates to reject a bid for special protected status for Emperor penguins. Activist heads have exploded.

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Polar bear habitat in Canada over the last decade: spring sea ice not in a death spiral

Sea ice extent in Canada at the height of Arctic spring over the last 10 years has been more like a gentle roller coaster than a death spiral. See for yourself.

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Polynyas are critical for polar bear spring feeding

Areas of open water or thin ice in spring are essential for the survival of Arctic species, as I emphasized in my recent peer-reviewed paper on polar bear ecology. Sea ice is still abundant in spring (April-June), which is the critical feeding period for polar bears: they must consume about 2/3 of the total calories they need for the entire year. Most of those calories come from newborn seals (ringed, bearded, and harp).

In southern areas, such as Hudson Bay and Davis Strait, virtually all of this feeding is completed by the end of May, making June a time of opportunistic hunting for most bears: if they find a seal, they will kill and eat it but if not, they can do without. That’s not just my opinion but the reason given by polar bear specialists themselves to explain why Southern Hudson Bay polar bear numbers had not declined in the 2000s despite a sudden increase in the ice-free season:

…even though break-up has advanced by up to 3-4 weeks in portions of Hudson Bay it still occurs no earlier than late June or early July so does not yet interfere with opportunities to feed on neonate ringed seal pups that are born in March-April in eastern Hudson Bay. Therefore, losing days or weeks of hunting opportunities during June and July deprives polar bears of the opportunity to feed on adult seals, but does not deprive them of the critical spring period when they are truly hyperphagic. [Obbard et al. 2016:29]

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Wandering polar bears are the new starving bears falsely blamed on climate change: Déjà vu

I said last year that wandering polar bears appeared to be the new ‘starving’ polar bears that were formerly the go-to victims falsely blamed on lack of ice due to climate change and here we are again. Polar bear specialists and their cheer leaders so seldom disappoint.

Although not one of the Canadian news outlets that reported on the fat polar bear that was shot after unexpectedly showing up on the Gaspé peninsula two weeks ago blamed this incident on global warming, a few days later The Guardian in the UK stepped up.

Of course it did. My own report of the incident is here, from 1 May 2022, in case you missed it (with sea ice charts, as always).

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