Polar bear habitat update at mid-August

From Polar Bear Science

Oddly, after light winter ice coverage on Canada’s east coast and a slightly earlier sea ice breakup on Hudson Bay, the Arctic melt season has stalled. That’s not my opinion but the observation of the sea ice experts at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC):

Sea ice loss during the first half of August stalled, though ice in the Beaufort Sea is finally starting to weaken. The Northern Sea Route appears closed off in 2021, despite being open each summer since 2008.

Overall, ice coverage is well above what it was in 2012 (the lowest September extent since 1979) and many years since:

Russia and the Northern Sea route

No getting through that ice, shown below at 19 August 2021 closeup (NSIDC MASIE):

Chukchi Sea (Western Arctic) in detail

Wrangel Island is still half covered in ice, as is most of the coast of Chukotka. Too much ice for walrus to be hauling out on Russian beaches and no word of them onshore in Alaska either (although they were of course expected last month).

Canada and Alaska

Lots of ice still in the western portion, Kane Basin (between Ellesmere Island and northwest Greenland), and in Foxe Basin, where the polar bear attack took place 10 days ago:

As is evident by the charts above and below, all routes through the North American Northwest Passage are also blocked:

Beaufort Sea in detail

Sea ice in the Beaufort Sea hasn’t been this extensive at mid-August since 2005:

Barents Sea and Svalbard

As is evident from the graph below, the ice around Svalbard has only decline below normal levels in the last few days. However, even though ice levels were very low last summer and at some points during the winter, data collected on polar bears in the region this spring show they are still doing well.

PS. Oddly, the city of Churchill has posted no further Problem Polar Bear Reports since 12 July, although they are usually issued every week between breakup and freezeup in Western Hudson Bay. No idea why. The first two are included in this post.

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August 21, 2021 at 12:20PM

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