Polar bear habitat update: open water primarily due to winds pushing pack ice

polarbearscience

Here is a look at what polar bear habitat looks like this year at the end of May compared to previous years. It helps put any predictions of impending doom into perspective.

Polar_bear Bering Sea 2007 USFWS lg

This is the time year when declining sea ice gets some people all worked up. However, declining ice is normal at this time of year and there is always variation in where the most open water appears first. At this time of year, there isn’t much ice ‘melt’ going on. Rather, what we are seeing is the opening up of shore leads and polynyas by winds.

Sea ice in Canada at 31 May

This year, as usual, open water increases with the expansion of persistent polynyas due to winds and currents. These areas increase the extent of ice edges and provide polar bears with more hunting habitat (because seals congregate near open water). This year, there is…

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