A Good Year for Polar Bears

January 29, 2016
Polar Bears

Happy Hunting!

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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 articles. 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.