Tag Archives: sea ice

Arctic sea ice maximum extent was present for at least two weeks at about 14.9 million km2

US National Snow and Ice Data Center says the Arctic maximum extent for this winter peaked at 14.88 mkm2 on 25 February, but in fact this amount of ice coverage lasted for at least two weeks (22 February – 8 March), with very slight variation. Just a little something they all left out of their announcements, for some reason.

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Mid-winter polar bear sea ice habitat is abundant & within range of long-term average

Ahead of International Polar Bear Day (27 February) this year, polar bear habitat is as abundant as it has been for decades. This is a tough time for polar bears, many of which will be finding it hard to find seals to eat, as newborn seals won’t be an available food resource for about a month in most areas. Thin and hungry bears are dangerous.

Sea ice charts below for the Arctic as a whole and by region.

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Fact checkers defend activist scientists because they agree with them not because they are right

The so-called fact-checkers are out again trying to insist one side of a scientific debate is wrong and another is right because they happen to agree with one side. That’s advocacy, not science.

Here are some facts (check the links provided for additional references):

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Davis Strait polar bears in Eastern Canada are thriving according to new survey

Pack ice is barreling down the Labrador coast, almost certainly bringing Davis Strait polar bears with it. And according to new survey results, those bears are doing just fine: numbers are stable, bears are fatter than they were in 2007, and cubs are surviving well – thanks largely to abundant harp seals.

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Polar bears at Kolyuchin Island weather station provide a rare photographer’s treat

Russian wildlife photographer Dmitry Kokh took some photos and video last year of polar bears hunkered down at an abandoned weather station on the Chukchi Sea coast and he apparently won a prize for one of them, shown below. The shots are very cool, so I’ve provided some context for the story and posted the video here.

‘Summer Season’ by Dmitry Kokh
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East Coast sea ice so far similar to last year

Davis Strait ice pack is slowly moving south this year just as shorefast ice is developing in-place along the Labrador shoreline, similar to last year. East Coast harp seals that give birth in the region in March depend on this ice and so do many Davis Strait polar bears that feed on those newborn seals. In contrast, in 2017 the ice off Labrador was broader by mid-January (even more so by mid-February) and that seems to have made a huge difference by April, when ice north of Newfoundland was thick and extensive.

Compared to last year at this time, there was somewhat less ice along the Labrador coast but the difference is really negligible. By April, ice extent was well below average, especially in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and there were few sightings of polar bears along the Labrador and Newfoundland coasts.

Back in 2017 at the same time (below), the band of ice along the southern Labrador coast was much broader, indicating more movement of Davis Strait ice from the north. This resulted in so many polar bear sightings in Newfoundland and Labrador by March and April that I could hardly keep up reporting them (Crockford 2019:32):

East coast conditions could change significantly over the next few weeks however, especially if weather conditions bring more north winds.

References

Crockford, S.J. 2019. State of the Polar Bear Report 2018. Global Warming Policy Foundation Report 32, London. PDF here.

Remembering the terrorizing Belushya Guba polar bears: lots of Barents Sea ice cover this year

Three years ago, the Russian village of Belushya Guba on southwest coast of Novaya Zemlya on the Barents Sea got international attention for the dozens of polar bears that had invaded the local dump and some aggressive bears were terrorizing local residents. The phenomenon was of course blamed on climate change by virtually all media outlets largely because there was no sea ice on that coast at the time (as had been true many years before without bear trouble).

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.

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A ‘mass exodus’ of polar bears from Alaska to Russia has taken place, local residents claim

An article in a UK newspaper yesterday contains a claim made by local residents that polar bears which used to hang around Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow) in western Alaska, are ‘moving to Russia’ (i.e. the Chukchi Sea) in a ‘mass exodus’. It’s certainly possible but if so, it should come as a surprise to no one and is good news for polar bears.

If the allegation is upheld by scientific evidence, polar bears will not have been pushed out of Alaska by lack of summer sea ice (i.e. ‘forced to migrate’) but rather pulled into the Chukchi Sea by abundant food resources that did not exist when summer ice cover was more extensive. It’s a big difference and it speaks to the benefits of less summer sea ice that no one wants to discuss.

Moreover, moving temporarily to where conditions suit them best is what polar bears do all the time: it’s not a new phenomenon, it’s a prominent feature of their biology (Crockford 2019).

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Walrus video you can let your kids watch

A National Geographic short of a walrus cow and her newborn calf, from 2009, that’s appropriate for kids.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Educational video about Arctic sea ice to bookmark: excellent for adults and children

One of the recommended videos I included in my Arctic Sea Ice Ecosystem Teaching Guide is a film called “Edge of Ice”. Produced in 1986 (before climate change hype pervaded everything), this 55 minute documentary from the National Film Board of Canada (filmed in Lancaster Sound, Canada) is an excellent summary of Arctic sea ice and its ecology. Available for free streaming here.

Narrated in parts by an Inuk hunter, it not only shows virtually all of the species associated with ice edges in the central Canadian Arctic, including polar bears, but also explains the process of freezing and thawing; life under the ice and the importance of polynyas.

Worth bookmarking for future viewing if you can’t get to it right away. Beats watching the news these days. It’s also a reminder to tell your homeschooling friends and relatives over the holidays about my free Teaching Guide resource: it’s something many parents will find useful.