Polar Bears International

Early Ice Break Up on Hudson Bay

6/30/2011 12:53:49 PM

Early Ice Break Up on Hudson Bay

Children play along the shore of a melting Hudson Bay
Children play along the shore of western Hudson Bay near Churchill. The ice broke up nearly a month earlier than normal this year, forcing polar bears ashore. Photo ©Dave Allcorn/Frontiers North.

The first reports of polar bears on land in western Hudson Bay started trickling in over the weekend of June 24th-25th, signs of another early year for the break-up of the ice on Hudson Bay. The Canadian Ice Service has just posted its ice status report. It's a grim statement about ice in this part of the world. The normal ice coverage for the area should be a bit over 50% for June 25%; instead, it's barely over 25%. (See the graph below from the Canadian Ice Service: the blue tabs show actual ice coverage; the green line is the median.)

Sea Ice Extent June 2011

To get an idea of how much ice is missing, a quick look at the Canadian Ice Service map below is revealing. The brighter the red, the more ice is missing. The dark red areas are missing all the ice that would normally be there (at least compared to the 1979-2000 period). The figure is a grim reminder that the Hudson Bay area is only one of the areas in Canada affected. The polar bears in Davis Strait, Foxe Basin, and Baffin Bay are also going to be having a tough time.

Hudson Bay Ice Losses 6-11

Polar bears need ice to hunt seals. Without it, they pay a heavy price that usually comes in the form of lost body fat. Less fat means pregnant females might not produce as many cubs.

The polar bears that we collared bears earlier in the spring are still lingering on the last bits of ice. We'll soon know how they made out over the winter. Fingers crossed. I'll follow up this post with a map of our collared bears in two to three days, after we receive the latest data.

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