Still pack ice around Bear Island in the Barents Sea on 15 May: last time was 2003

polarbearscience

It’s very open drift ice (1-4/10th concentration) but still: Bear Island (Bjørnøya) in the southern Barents Sea was still surrounded by pack ice at 15 May 2020. As far as I can tell from the Norwegian Ice Service archived ice charts, this hasn’t happened since 2003.

Svalbard ice extent 2020 May 15_NIS

And last week, the island was surrounded by heavy drift ice, which hadn’t happened on 8 May since 1977.

Back in 2003, there were no coloured ice charts but the 4/10th ice around Bear Island in the south is apparent on this chart:

Svalbard ice extent 2003 May 15_NIS archive

On 8 May – a week after my last post on this topic – the NIS tweeted an image of the ice around Bear Island with this comment added:

“Bjørnøya often sees scattered sea ice in May but the last time there was packed ice above 4/10ths was in 1993 and above 7/10ths in 1977.” [see image below]

Bear Island 8 May 2020 NIS

Below is…

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New report: Harp seal population critical to Davis Strait polar bears is still increasing

polarbearscience

The report on the latest population estimate for harp seals off the east coast of North America was released in late March without fanfare and therefore no media attention. This was one of the missing scientific reports mentioned in my State of the Polar Bear Report 2019 released in February (Crockford 2020): results of surveys promised for months or years by early 2020 but not delivered.

Harp seal on ice around PEI _DFO 2017Not surprisingly then, we find the report has good news: the population estimate of harp seals in the NW Atlantic has risen to about 7.6 million (range 6.55-8.82) animals (DFO 2020), up from 7.4 million in 2014 (DFO 2014).

Note that the survey was done in March 2017, a low ice year for the Gulf of St. Lawrence (see discussion below) and while this may have resulted in some increased mortality for pups born there, it is also known that many ‘Gulf’ pregnant females…

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Sea ice more than 1.2m thick over Hudson Bay portends a good year for polar bears

polarbearscience

The chart below shows what sea ice thickness over Hudson Bay was like at the first week of May in a so-called a‘good year’(2019) – when polar bears came off the ice in excellent condition late in the summer and left early in the fall (‘thick first year ice’ is dark green and indicates ice greater than 1.2m thick):

Hudson Bay weekly stage of development 2019 May 6

Hudson Bay ice conditions this year appear to be shaping up to be as good or better than last year for polar bears yet specialist researchers and their cheerleaders have still been claiming that bears in this region – Western and Southern Hudson Bay – are doomed because of poor ice conditions. It’s no wonder they still haven’t published the data they’ve been collecting on polar bear body condition and cub survival over the last 15 years or so (Crockford 2020). With most field work cancelled for this year

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Global Land & Ocean Air Cooling in April

Science Matters

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With apologies to Paul Revere, this post is on the lookout for cooler weather with an eye on both the Land and the Sea.  UAH has updated their tlt (temperatures in lower troposphere) dataset for April 2020.  Previously I have done posts on their reading of ocean air temps as a prelude to updated records from HADSST3. This month also has a separate graph of land air temps because the comparisons and contrasts are interesting as we contemplate possible cooling in coming months and years.

Presently sea surface temperatures (SST) are the best available indicator of heat content gained or lost from earth’s climate system.  Enthalpy is the thermodynamic term for total heat content in a system, and humidity differences in air parcels affect enthalpy.  Measuring water temperature directly avoids distorted impressions from air measurements.  In addition, ocean covers 71% of the planet surface and thus dominates surface temperature estimates.  Eventually…

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Cold air rises—what that means for Earth’s climate

Tallbloke's Talkshop

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Are these researchers proposing a kind of reverse greenhouse effect in the tropics?

Conventional knowledge has it that warm air rises while cold air sinks, says Phys.org.

But a study from the University of California, Davis, found that in the tropical atmosphere, cold air rises due to an overlooked effect—the lightness of water vapor.

This effect helps to stabilize tropical climates and buffer some of the impacts of a warming climate.

The study, published today in the journal Science Advances, is among the first to show the profound implications water vapor buoyancy has on Earth’s climate and energy balance.

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New Paper: Body condition of Barents Sea polar bears increased since 2004 despite sea ice loss

polarbearscience

A recent paper that attempted to correlate pollution levels and body condition in Barents Sea polar bears reports it found body condition of female bears had increased between 2004 and 2017 despite a pronounced decline in summer and winter sea ice extent.

Svalbard polar bear Jon Aars_Norsk Polarinstitutt

“Unexpectedly, body condition of female polar bears from the Barents Sea has increased after 2005, although sea ice has retreated by ∼50% since the late1990s 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” [Lippold et al. 2019:988]

This result explains all the fat female polar bear photos coming out of the Svalbard region in recent years. However, it is totally at odds with predictions of catastrophic declines in polar bear numbers in…

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