Many W Hudson Bay polar bears still offshore at 7 August despite apparent low ice levels
Posted on August 9, 2020 |
Contrary to all expert expectations, five female polar bears (45%) out of eleven that had tracking collars attached last year were still out on the sea ice that’s lingering along the western shore of Hudson Bay as of 7 August. And if five collared bears are out there, then there are almost certainly many more without collars doing the same thing. This pattern of bears staying out on the ice long after the so-called ‘critical threshold’ of 50% concentration has passed has been going on since at least 2015 and many bears on tracking maps in July and August appear to be on ice that doesn’t exist.
There are two explanations for this pattern and both are likely true: 1) much more ice actually exists on Hudson Bay than satellites can detect and 2) polar bear experts are wrong that Western Hudson Bay polar bears head to land soon after sea ice concentration drops below 50%. Models that predict a catastrophic future for Western Hudson Bay polar bears (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2013; Molnar et al. 2020) assume that ice coverage of less than 50% in summer greatly reduces polar bear survival. However, if polar bears do not always head to land when sea ice drops below 50% then the models cannot possibly describe their future accurately. In other words, depending on the discredited ‘worst case’ RCP8.5 climate scenario for the most recent polar bear survival model that extrapolates from Western Hudson Bay bear data to many other subpopulations, as I discussed previously, may not be its only fault.
For at least the last five years now Western Hudson Bay polar bears have stayed out on melting summer ice when it was well below 50% concentration; the same phenomenon of bears tracking to what looks like open water has also shown up for Southern Beaufort bears.
Below is biologist Andrew Derocher’s tracking map at 7 August 2020 for the bears he and colleagues put collars on last year, which shows five out of eleven bears still out on the ice:
As I’ve pointed out previously, more ice is present on the bay than shows on the tracking map above because it only shows ice that’s >50% concentration. Here are the Canadian Ice Service charts for the northern and southern portions of the bay on 8 Aug:
All of the ice remaining is thick first year ice, which means there is likely to be more ice than satellites can visualize because of melt-water ponding on top of the ice floes at this time of year. Polar bears are excellent swimmers and deal easily with such melt ponds. These are a regular feature of the Arctic landscape at this time of year and part of the polar bears’ natural habitat. Below is a photo of melt ponds in the Beaufort Sea at mid-July 2016 (taken by NASA).
According to the satellite charts shown above, only a bit of remnant thick first year ice is left on Hudson Bay. However, even polar bear researchers know that satellites are notoriously bad at getting the amount of ice correct at this time of year and can underestimate ice amounts by up to 50% in Hudson Bay. Polar bear biologists that work with Western Hudson Bay bears, like Andrew Derocher, are aware that this is the case, as the quote below from one of his student’s papers shows (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017:227) [my bold]:
In general, passive microwave derived sea ice data are associated with an underestimation error of up to 30% during breakup and freeze-up throughout the marginal ice zone and seasonal ice regions in the Northern Hemisphere (e.g. Cavalieri et al. 1991, Comiso et al. 1997, Markus & Dokken 2002). In Hudson Bay, passive microwave sea ice concentration can underestimate sea ice concentration by up to 50% compared with CISDA (Agnew & Howell 2003). Underestimation biases of passive microwave data are associated with the presence of wet snow and melt ponds during breakup, and with areas covered by frazil ice and young ice during freeze-up (Agnew & Howell 2003).
However, there is another possible explanation for why many WH polar bears this year (and back to 2015 at least) have remained on the ice despite the apparent ice coverage being well below 50%. That’s the probability that low ice concentrations during sea ice breakup in the summer is not a death sentence for polar bears as researchers intend on modeling their future have long assumed. Below is Derocher’s tracking map for last year at the end of July, where we see the same pattern:
In 2018, the pattern was similar: by late July ice cover in Western Hudson Bay was apparently almost non-existent but four bears with tracking collars were still offshore (and if four collared bears were on the ice, it’s almost certain there were many more without collars):
And in 2017, the story was the same. That summer was the first time I noticed Derocher suggesting that “bears may be shifting behaviour to stay out on less ice” to explain why the tagged bears were not coming ashore when the sea ice dropped below 50% as he and his colleagues expect them to do.
Derocher said something similar a few weeks ago (29 July 2020):
“4 W Hudson Bay polar bears ashore. Amazing how long they’re staying offshore as ice this low would usually have them all on land. So many still on the ice suggests a behaviour shift (i.e., behavioural plasticity). The @ualbertaScience polar bear crew is studying this.”
Only now, apparently, are Derocher and his colleagues giving any thought to the possibility that polar bears might not have rigid responses to changing sea ice conditions. No, polar bear experts looked at the sea ice was like in the 1980s and figured those conditions were what polar bears absolutely required (Amstrup et al. 2007; Castro de la Guardia et al. 2013, 2017; Durner et al. 2007; Stirling et al. 1999): they never considered the possibility that the bears could do perfectly well with less.
[I’ve been pointing out for years that after about late May to early June on Hudson Bay, there are few opportunities for polar bears to catch seals which means they would eat as little on the ice as they would do if they were on land. It’s cooler on the ice and there are no bugs, so some bears may choose to stay out as long as possible but gardner no particular advantage by doing so.]
By all accounts, 2016 was a great summer for WH bears and many were out on the rapidly declining ice:
And in 2015, there were again bears on ice that shouldn’t exist:
In summary, polar bears have been doing very well in Western Hudson Bay since at least 2015 despite the fact that quite a few bears have stayed out on ice less than 50% concentration for weeks at the end of the melt season. Virtually all bears have come ashore fat and healthy over that period, whether they came ashore late or early. So the surprise about Western Hudson Bay is not just that for the last two years bears have been coming ashore fat and healthy and as late as they did in the 1980s but that their relationship with the melting ice contradicts a very basic assumption held by polar bear experts. It is apparent from what’s been happening in Hudson Bay since 2015 that polar bears do not require sea ice cover that is >50% concentration during the summer, which means that polar bear survival models developed to predict the future of the species based on this assumption are almost certainly getting the wrong answers.
PS. So far, there has not been a report from the Polar Bear Alert Program regarding problem bears in Churchill, Western Hudson Bay. As long as I’ve been collecting these published reports (2015), there has not been a first report of the season issued later than the second week in July. Even if it is issued this week, the second week in August is extraordinarily late for the first report of the season. However, it’s not clear if that’s because the bears are so late off the ice that there have been no problems yet or for some other reason. Last week I contacted the Town of Churchill, who usually post these reports on their website, and got this reply (12:46 PM 7 August 2020):
Good afternoon, thank you for your message. We have not yet received any reports from Manitoba Conservation and Climate regarding Polar Bears in the area. We have reached out, and will be posting them as they are received. Thank you.
Amstrup, S.C., Marcot, B.G. & Douglas, D.C. 2007. Forecasting the rangewide status of polar bears at selected times in the 21st century. US Geological Survey. Reston, VA. Pdf here
Castro de la Guardia, L., Derocher, A.E., Myers, P.G., Terwisscha van Scheltinga, A.D. and Lunn, N.J. 2013. Future sea ice conditions in Western Hudson Bay and consequences for polar bears in the 21st century. Global Change Biology 19:2675–2687. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12272
Castro de la Guardia, L., Myers, P.G., Derocher, A.E., Lunn, N.J., Terwisscha van Scheltinga, A.D. 2017. Sea ice cycle in western Hudson Bay, Canada, from a polar bear perspective. Marine Ecology Progress Series 564: 225–233. http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v564/p225-233/
Durner, G.M., Douglas, D.C., Nielson, R.M., Amstrup, S.C. and McDonald, T.L. 2007. Predicting 21st-century polar bear habitat distribution from global climate models. US Geological Survey. Reston, Virginia. Pdf here.
Molnár, P.K., Bitz, C.M., Holland, M.M., Kay, J.E., Penk, S.R. and Amstrup, S.C. 2020. Fasting season length sets temporal limits for global polar bear persistence. Nature Climate Change. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0818-9
Stirling, I., Lunn, N.J. and Iacozza, J. 1999. Long-term trends in the population ecology of polar bears in Western Hudson Bay in relation to climate change. Arctic 52:294-306. http://arctic.synergiesprairies.ca/arctic/index.php/arctic/article/view/935/960 [open access]
via Watts Up With That?
August 10, 2020 at 12:33PM
The true costs of “green” energy are staggering.
“Politicians and activists in California, and across the country and world, think a primary solution to our “manmade climate crisis” and other environmental ills is “clean, ethical, climate-friendly, sustainable” electric vehicles (EVs),” says Paul Driessen. “They never consider that replacing just that one state’s 15,000,000 cars with EVs would require nearly 1,000,000 tons of copper – plus huge amounts of other metal and mineral ores that have to be dug out of the ground, crushed, processed, smelted and turned into those vehicles, all with fossil fuels, and often with enormous ecological damage when the mines and other facilities are not operated under US standards.”
“Nor do they consider the HUMAN costs: child and slave labor, lung and skin diseases, cancers, injuries and deaths in faraway countries like Mongolia, Tibet, Chile and Congo, where much of that mining and processing take place … because we don’t allow it here. All those lives of darker-skinned people ought to matter. But they rarely get much news coverage – any more than the deaths of David Dorn, LeGend Taliferro and thousands of other blacks and other minorities in the United States get the attention they deserve.”
Why don’t these black lives matter?
Child labor, human rights abuses and deaths are routinely ignored by Greens and Democrats
Marathon Petroleum recently announced it will “indefinitely idle” its Martinez Refinery. The decision will remove hundreds of jobs, billions of dollars, and nearly 7 million gallons of gasoline, diesel and other petroleum liquids per day from the energy-hungry California economy. It will also send fuel prices even higher for minority and other poor families that already pay by far the highest gasoline prices in the continental United States: $1.32 more per gallon of regular than in Louisiana and Texas.
California’s green and political interests don’t want drilling or fracking, pipelines, or nuclear, coal or hydroelectric power plants – or mining for the materials needed to manufacture electric cars. They prefer to have that work done somewhere else, and just import the energy, cars and consumer goods.
They’ve long wanted a totally electric vehicle (EV) fleet, which they claim would be clean, ethical, climate-friendly and sustainable. Of course, those labels hold up only so long as they look solely at activities and emissions within California state boundaries – and not where the mining, manufacturing and electricity generation take place. That kind of “life cycle” analysis would totally disrupt their claims.
Consider copper. A typical internal combustion engine uses about 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of this vital everyday metal, the International Copper Association says. A hybrid car requires almost 90 lb (40 kg); a plug-in EV needs 132 lb (60 kg); and a big electric bus can use up to 812 lb (369 kg) of copper. If all 15,000,000 California cars were EVs, they would need almost 1,000,000 tons of copper.
But copper ores average just 0.5% metal by weight, notes energy analyst Mark Mills. That means 200,000,000 tons of ore would have to be dug up, crushed, processed and refined to get that much copper. Almost every step in that process would require fossil fuels – and emit carbon dioxide and pollutants.
That’s just California. According to Cambridge University Emeritus Professor of Technology Michael Kelly, replacing all the United Kingdom’s vehicles with next-generation EVs would require more than half the world’s annual production of copper; twice its annual cobalt; three quarters of its yearly lithium carbonate output; and nearly its entire annual production of neodymium.
Just one electric car or backup-power battery weighs 1,000 pounds and requires extracting and processing some 500,000 pounds of various ores, Mills says.
The true costs of “green” energy are staggering.
Imagine replacing all of the USA’s nearly 300,000,000 cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, buses, trucks and other vehicles with electric versions under the Green New Deal – and then charging them daily. The millions of wind turbines, billions of solar panels, billions of backup-power batteries, thousands of miles of new transmission lines, grid upgrades and million or so fast charging stations all across America would also require copper, concrete, all these other metals and many more materials, in incomprehensible quantities.
Alaska’s Pebble Mine deposit has an estimated 35 million tons of high-grade copper ore and 3 million tons of molybdenum and other critical GND ores. The copper alone is nearly two times the world’s 2019 output of that essential element. Permits were blocked for years for questionable reasons. But the US Army Corps of Engineers recently found that mining would not have a “measurable effect” on sockeye salmon numbers in the Bristol Bay watershed and should be allowed to proceed, under tough US pollution control, reclamation, wildlife protection, workplace safety, fair wage and child labor laws.
Environmentalists intend to delay the Pebble Mine as long as possible – and block other US exploration and mining projects. That’s why most mining and processing is done overseas, much of it in China and Mongolia or by Chinese companies in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where none of these laws apply.
Most of the world’s rare earth ores are extracted near Baotou, Inner Mongolia by pumping acid into the ground, then processed using more acids and chemicals. Producing one ton of rare earth metals releases up to 420,000 cubic feet of toxic gases, 2,600 cubic feet of acidic wastewater, and a ton of radioactive waste. The resulting black sludge is piped into a foul, lifeless lake. Numerous local people suffer from severe skin and respiratory diseases, children are born with soft bones, and cancer rates have soared.
Lithium comes largely from Tibet and arid highlands of the Argentina-Bolivia-Chile “lithium triangle.” Dead, toxic fish join carcasses of cows and yaks floating down Tibet’s Liqi River, which has been poisoned by the Ganzizhou Rongda mine. Native people in the ABC triangle say lithium operations contaminate streams needed for humans, livestock and irrigation, and leave mountains of discarded salt.
The world’s top producer of cobalt is the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some 40,000 children as young as four toil with their parents for less than $2 a day up to 12 hours a day. Many die in cave-ins, or more slowly from constant exposure to toxic, radioactive mud, dust, water and air that puts dangerous levels of cobalt, lead, uranium and other heavy metals into their bodies. The cobalt ore is sent to China for processing by the Chinese-owned Congo Dongfang International Mining Company.
That’s just to meet current raw material requirements. Try to picture the raw material demands, Third World mining and child labor conditions, and ecological destruction, under the Green New Deal.
Shut up about it
Liberals often say they support sustainable, ethical coffee, sneakers, handbags and diamonds. No child labor, sweat shops or unsafe conditions tolerated. But it’s a different story with green energy and EVs. In 2019, California Assembly Bill 735 proposed that the state certify that “zero emission” electric vehicles sold there are free of any materials or components that involve child labor. Democrats voted it down. The matter is complicated, they “explained.” It would be too hard to enforce, cost too much and imperil state climate goals. And besides, lots of other industries also use child labor. (So shut up about it.)
Last month, the US House of Representatives had an opportunity to legislate a national certification that federally funded electric buses and charging stations would not include minerals mined with child labor. The Transportation Committee approved the amendment 43-19 (all 19 nay votes were Democrats). But Pete DeFazio(D-OR) quietly replaced the enforceable certification language with a meaningless statement that “it is the policy of the United States” that funds “should not be used” for items involving child labor.
DeFazio claimed certification is unnecessary because US trade agreements prohibit child labor. But there is no agreement with Congo, and China has shown no interest in ending child labor in its supply chains. (Plus, the matter is complicated, hard to enforce and perilous for climate and Green New Deal goals.)
It’s easy for Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues to wear Kente cloth stoles in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. And for Sierra Club staff to criticize the organization’s “history and culture of white supremacy” – what I call callous, deadly and arguably racist eco-imperialism and carbon colonialism. We need real reform, and an end to the cancel culture that silences discussion about the horrors of what’s going on in too many non-white areas of the United States and world.
The human and ecological realities of GND policies cry out for debate. So do the violence and death that preceded and followed George Floyd’s inexcusable death. Not just the 25 police killings of unarmed blacks all across America in 2019 that have become the narrow focus of Black Lives Matter, politicians and rioters. But also the murders of David Dorn, Patrick Underwood and other police officers; Mekhi James, LeGend Taliferro, Secoriea Turner and other black children gunned down by their fellow blacks; and as many as 7,000 American black men, women and children murdered by blacks every year.
In Chicago, over the July 4 weekend, police reported 87 shootings and 17 deaths, and nearly a dozen of those shot were children caught in the crossfire, the New York Post despaired. In fact, the black-on-black Windy City murder toll over almost any two recent successive weekends exceeds those 25 police killings.
Every single person shot in New York City in July was a member of the minority community
“Every single person who has been shot in New York City [so far] this July, nearly 100 in total, has been a member of the minority community,” NBC News reporter Tom Winter tweeted, “and 97% of shooting victims in June were members of the city’s minority community.” The solution is defunding the police?
ALL these African, Asian, Latin American and minority American lives matter. It’s time to talk about it honestly, figure out what’s really driving the inhumanity, and create a world we can be proud to live in.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, environment, climate and human rights issues.
via Ice Age Now
August 10, 2020 at 12:31PM