Tag Archives: Svalbard

Svalbard walrus thrive in the face of sea ice decline, mocking predictions of future catastrophe

The extended visit of an immature male walrus to the UK last month (dubbed ‘Thor’, presumably from Svalbard, Norway) has precipitated the tired and vacuous ‘victim of climate change’ cries from the peanut gallery, including Bob Ward of the Grantham Institute. The facts, however, put all that to rest.

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Polar bear habitat update: Winter conditions well on their way across the Arctic except in Svalbard

December is late fall in the Arctic: winter conditions are gearing up but are not in full swing everywhere. Sea ice is developing quickly over Hudson Bay and moving slowly towards the Bering Sea but the Svalbard archipelago is still devoid of pack ice.

Such conditions north of Norway have existed most years since 2005: it’s certainly not a new development for Svalbard to be free of surrounding pack ice in December (although there was lots of ice in 2019 and 2021 by late November). This means traditional denning areas on the eastern islands again cannot be used by pregnant polar bear females, because they must be ensconced in their dens by at least late November or so.

Some seem to think this is a calamity: that such ‘loss of habitat’ is a huge concern for the survival of the subpopulation, if not the entire species. However, the same conditions existed in 2011 and did not result in a dramatic decline in the population as measured in 2015 (Aars et al. 2017) because the bears knew how to respond. They have apparently moved north to make maternity dens on the sea ice or east to the Franz Josef Land archipelago in Russia (Aars 2015). These areas are still within the Barents Sea subpopulation boundaries and researchers have known for two decades that bears have moved around within it (Andersen et al. 2012; Derocher 2005; Maurizen et al. 2002).

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Eastern Canadian Arctic has much more sea ice than usual while Svalbard polar bears deal with less

Svalbard is still ice-free this fall, which it has been rather consistently for at least ten years but the amount of sea ice greater than ‘normal’ in the Eastern Canadian Arctic at this date is something to behold. Yet contrary to predictions, polar bears in Svalbard are thriving.

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Polar bear shot after early morning attack on French tourist camping in Svalbard

There was another polar bear attack on Svalbard this morning, similar to others in previous years. As usual, the body condition of the bear was not mentioned (whether fat or thin) and photos of it were not published. The woman survived, the bear did not.

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Expert admits polar bears in Svalbard are thriving despite the greatest loss of sea ice in the Arctic

In an article published last week, polar bear specialist Jon Aars is quoted as saying that Svalbard bears are “unexpectedly” thriving. However, he fails short of admitting that the bears don’t really need summer ice as long as they are well-fed in spring, which they have been for the last two decadesthis year included.

Aars said the sea ice in this area is declining more than twice as fast as anywhere else in the Arctic. But the polar bears here — unexpectedly — are thriving. [E. Haavik, Svalbard’s polar bears persist as sea ice melts — but not forever, 21 July 2022; my bold]

Spring 2018, Barents Sea

The suggestion by Aars that the Svalbard archipelago could one day be ice-free for the entire year is speculative hyperbole but even if that were to happen, it would only mean the permanent movement of 300 or so Svalbard bears to Franz Josef Land (still within the Barents Sea) where ice conditions are less volatile.

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Svalbard polar bear data for spring 2022, low June ice unlikely to affect health or survival

Sea ice around Svalbard, Norway has receded dramatically over the last few weeks and is now at levels similar to 2018 and 2006. But the data are in for the 2022 spring season and they show the bears are still thriving.

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Barents Sea good news: researcher reveals polar bears, even females, still in excellent condition

Barents Sea polar bears had another good year in 2022 despite having lost the most sea ice of any subpopulation but the media and activists can’t help themselves insisting a dismal future is ahead.

Oddly, Norwegian polar bear researcher Jon Aars recently said the quiet part out loud: that he expects Barents Sea polar bear numbers to keep rising, which is rather at odds with the standard narrative:

“What we think is that in the future, if you get less and less sea ice and more and more bears, at some stage they will start struggling and you get fewer bears,” Dr. Jon Aars, a research biologist at Norwegian Polar Institute, told CTV News. [CTV News, 8 May 2022]

This despite the fact that recent research results showed the bears have been doing fine despite declining ice and a study on females up to 2017 compared to 1997-2005 showed the bears were in significantly better condition in recent years:

Unexpectedly, body condition of female polar bears from the Barents Sea has increased after 2005, although sea ice has retreated by ∼50% since the late 1990s in the area, and the length of the ice-free season has increased by over 20 weeks between 1979 and 2013. These changes are also accompanied by winter sea ice retreat that is especially pronounced in the Barents Sea compared to other Arctic areas. Despite the declining sea ice in the Barents Sea, polar bears are likely not lacking food as long as sea ice is present during their peak feeding period. Polar bears feed extensively from April to June when ringed seals have pups and are particularly vulnerable to predation, whereas the predation rate during the rest of the year is likely low.” [Lippold et al. 2019:988]

This is has been upheld this year as well, with Aars saying in the video below (6 May 2022) that bears were found to be in excellent condition this spring. In contrast, the media framed this good news within the false ‘polar bear numbers are declining’ narrative, urged on, no doubt, by doom-monger Steve Amstrup.

Amstrup is the paid spokesman for activist organization Polar Bears International, who is identified in this ‘news’ report only as a ‘scientist’, as if he were unbiased, banging on about bears in Western Hudson Bay, where sea ice decline has been a fraction of what the Barents Sea has experienced.

Sea ice charts for the Barents Sea

Compared to previous years, ice extent around Svalbard is above average now (in May) but in contrast to last year, was well below average for much of March, leading to a huge hue-and-cry of impending doom:

Amstrup’s prophet-of-doom side-kick, Dr. Andrew Derocher (University of Alberta), who worked in the Svalbard area in the 1990s, was wringing his hands in public over sea ice loss in March:

and…

It turned out, this wasn’t an “early melt” but pack ice moving in response to wind, as it often does. A bucket-load of angst, all for nothing. Oddly enough, the polar bears figured out a way to not just survive, but thrive! Who would have thought?

References

Lippold, A., Bourgeon, S., Aars, J., Andersen, M., Polder, A., Lyche, J.L., Bytingsvik, J., Jenssen, B.M., Derocher, A.E., Welker, J.M. and Routti, H. 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.

Whaling crews and their encounters with polar bears and sea ice in 17th century Svalbard

A new paper published today by Dagomar Degroot is a long but interesting historical account about sea ice and whaling in the 1600s around Svalbard that includes some details on interactions of whalers with polar bears (Figure 4 from the paper copied below). These were the early days of whaling in the Arctic: the wholesale slaughter of whales and polar bears didn’t happen until the 1800s.

The paper is open access, so free to download but I’ve copied the abstract and a short excerpt here.

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Dispelling the doomsday propaganda in DisneyNature’s new polar bear ‘documentary’

In a move that echoes the collaboration of activist organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF) with Netflix that brought us Sir David Attenborough’s walrus deception in ‘Our Planet’ that I chronicled in my latest book, ‘Fallen Icon’, streaming service DisneyNature has joined with activist organization Polar Bears International (PBI) to create a polar bear ‘documentary’ (called ‘Polar Bear’) that we can tell is propaganda because they’ve chosen to release the “cute and worrying” film on Earth Day (Friday 22 April 2022). In fact, the two films have a producer in common: Alastair Fothergill.

In the case of ‘Our Planet’, WWF bankrolled the film series for Netflix to ensure the content they desired; in ‘Polar Bear’, the tables are turned: DisneyNature is paying PBI for their assistance getting the polar bear film shots and providing their biased content, via money they are calling a research grant. I think you know by now what to expect. However, here are the facts about polar bear conditions in Svalbard, where the film was shot, and some good news from Western Hudson Bay this year, courtesy of Mike Reimer and his team at Churchill Wild. In short, there is still no climate emergency for polar bears: the hype is based on old models that failed spectacularly and new ones which depend on old data and totally improbable climate scenarios (Crockford 2017, 2019; Hausfather and Peters 2020; Molnar et al. 2020).

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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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