A Good Year for Polar Bears

Jan 29, 2016
Polar Bears

Happy Hunting!

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service


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Do you want to hear some good news? The Arctic Ice has returned!

If you were worrying about polar bears, which get their main source of food from hunting seals on the frozen Arctic ice cap, you can relax this winter. The polar sea ice has grown 60% in just one year!

Polar bears’ main sources of food are the seals lurking below the Arctic sea ice. This will be a good hunting year. Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Credit: Scott Schliebe

Scientists were astonished. After last year’s huge melt, many expected the Arctic sea ice to practically disappear. However, summer in the North Pole was unusually cold. Normally an Arctic summer has 90 days with temperatures above freezing. This means that there are normally 90 days for the ice to melt. This year, the coldest since records began, there were less than 50 days above freezing. The amount of sea ice for the polar bears hunting is huge.

Top − August 2012, Bottom − August 2013 The Arctic sea ice is 60% bigger than last year with 920,000 extra square miles after the end of the summer melting season. Source NASA

Last year, between extremely warm water in the North Atlantic and a record-breaking, ice-breaking August storm off Russia, the amount of sea ice plummeted. This year, the ice has grown back and there is more ice than we have seen in August over the last five years.

As concerned citizens point out, there is still much less ice than there used to be in the 1980s and 1990s. Scientists are still monitoring Arctic ice and long-term melting trends and it still is worrisome, particularly for Canada’s Hudson Bay populations.

For this year – it’s good to be a polar bear. The sea ice will come early and the bears will be able to hunt for their main source of food – seals. In particular, the Russian polar populations, which had a lean, stormy year in 2012, will have early access to their hunting grounds.  

Some weather services warn that with that much cold Arctic air in the North, it is shaping up to be a very cold winter here in the US. It may end up being a very hard winter for US travelers. But if you are a polar bear—Bon Appetit!

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to "Weather Whispers" by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these blog posts. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.

Reader Comments

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Don't feel sad for the polar

Don't feel sad for the polar bears. The population of Ursus maritimus is at the highest point ever recorded...despite record low amounts of ice. The dire predictions didn't pan out...someone forgot to tell the bears....but it did bring in a lot of money to the coffers of those who play people's heart strings and forget the inconvenient facts.

One of the problems is that

One of the problems is that taking an accurate census of all 19 polar bear populations is very difficult, especially for the Russian/Asian and Eastern Greenland polar bears. There is a huge variation in the estimates. We do know some population groups have declined. Other groups, particularly the bears in the northern Canadian islands, are doing well.

Polar Bears are suffering a

Polar Bears are suffering a lot due to the Glottalization. I hope we can do something for them. It is good to hear this great news.

I'm glad you enjoy it. I was

I'm glad you enjoy it. I was pleased to find some good news.

If its going to be a cold

If its going to be a cold winter I wonder why I'm not seeing any acorns this year. Every year I check for natures signs of winter. The leaves are changing here in North Carolina and I have seen many birds practice their flying so they can head south for winter. I also feel autumn in the air, but as far as my oak trees dropping acorns- zero, nada. I like to decorate with acorns but this is strange!! With all of that cold air in the arctic I couldnt expect another warm winter but if this year does end up like 2012 I guess we'll NEVER get it to snow this year. Maybe they're just growing late this year but this is still baffling me. Maybe there is a connection to all of this rain we've seen over the summer

Deb, not so here in Illinois.

Deb, not so here in Illinois. It is almost dangerous to walk outside, so many acorns cover the ground around my house. The walnut trees are also covered and we wake up to the sound of them hitting the roof then bouncing on the deck. Interesting about the rain, as NC and SC had an abundance and the past eight weeks in corn country is close to a drought.

Deb, I'm in Lexington, NC,

Deb, I'm in Lexington, NC, and my oaks are dropping acorns like CRAZY!!!

This year has seen a shift in

This year has seen a shift in normal weather and growth patterns. All the replies show the change in oak/acorn growth this year. The Old Farmer's Almanac people predicted a cold winter this year.

Will someone PLEASE call Al

Will someone PLEASE call Al Gore ?!!

: )  The IPCC is currently

: )  The IPCC is currently studying the polar situation. There is a lot of speculation that their models need to revise some of their estimates of either volcanic impact or shifts in the Pacific ocean cycles.

I bet it has to do with the

I bet it has to do with the sun's pole shift. :) Check back in 11 years when it is supposed to shift again.

No one knows for sure. I

No one knows for sure. I think it may have to do with a lot of polar volcanic activity which has left a lot of debris blocking sunlight from warming the Arctic skies.

But it would be fun to see some good solar research. I'll be posting about the solar polar shift next week!


I remember last summer while

I remember last summer while we did have a record low minimum, by autumn the sea ice grew at a very rapid rate. In fact I believe it could have broken a record for GROWING so fast! Then during the winter 2012-13 there was very cold air trapped into northern Canada and Alaska and as we got into the heart of winter the dam broke and cold air came flooding south! I believe it's going to be the same case this year. During the fall the bone chilling air will continue to build in the arctic and by November I do expect winter to settle in for good. By no means am I a weather expert but I have been around long enough to know what happens when we have cold arctic years. I remember the 70s and 80s having some brutal winters here in VA

Great observation. The winds

Great observation. The winds that circled the Arctic (measured by the Arctic Oscillation) were so strong in 2012 that all the cold polar air was trapped north. That gave the US a warm winter, spring and summer in 2012, but the Arctic was abnormally cold and stormy by fall. The ice growth was very rapid. Now the cold air has built up and, like you, I think it will plunge south and make this winter very cold.


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