Eastern Canadian Arctic Has Much More Sea Ice Than Usual While Svalbard Polar Bears Deal with Less

Dr. Susan Crockford

Svalbard is still ice-free this fall, which it has been rather consistently for at least ten years but the amount of sea ice greater than ‘normal’ in the Eastern Canadian Arctic at this date is something to behold. Yet contrary to predictions, polar bears in Svalbard are thriving.

Eastern Canada

All the dark blue on the chart below shows ‘much greater’ sea ice than usual in Hudson Bay and east of Baffin Island (compared to the long-term average for 1991-2020), suggesting conditions more like the 1980s for polar bears:

Indeed, excess ice goes all the way up Davis Strait into Baffin Bay for this third week of November:

I couldn’t find any archived ‘departure from normal’ charts I’d archived that had this much dark blue in Davis Strait at this date. The closest I could find was 2017, which was also a really early freeze-up in Hudson Bay:

Oddly, 2018 was similar for Hudson Bay but not Davis Strait:

Here is what the regional ice chart for 24 November 2022 looks like:

For comparison, the same week in 2016–the last time polar bears left the shore of Western Hudson Bay as late as the first weeks of December:

For the same week last year:

Svalbard (Western Barents Sea)

Sea ice coverage around Svalbard in the Barents Sea was the 10th lowest on record, which means there have been many years with less ice than this.

Compared to other years, note that this year is about the same as 2012 (when summer ice hit a record low) but not the lowest this has been:

Polar bears that used to make maternity dens around Svalbard either den on the sea ice or go to Franz Josef Land to the east, where there was ample ice a month ago: habitat all within what is officially the ‘Barents Sea’ subpopulation boundary.

Two weeks ago (10 November 2022), sea ice had reached the north coast of Novaya Zemlya:

Results of the annual survey done this year, discussed here, showed polar bears are still doing well despite about six times as much sea ice loss as other Arctic regions. The bears know what to do, despite hand-wringing by one vocal specialist who thinks that ice conditions as he knew them more than two decades ago is how conditions should remain forever or catastrophe will ensue.

In fact, a 2019 study showed female bears around Svalbard have been thriving in recent years despite the lack of “essential” ice.

“Unexpectedly, body condition of female polar bears from the Barents Sea has increased after 2005, although sea ice has retreated by 50% since the late 1990s in the area, and the length of the ice-free season has increased by over 20 weeks between 1979 and 2013. These changes are also accompanied by winter sea ice retreat that is especially pronounced in the Barents Sea compared to other Arctic areas” [Lippold et al. 2019:988]


Lippold, A., Bourgeon, S., Aars, J., Andersen, M., Polder, A., Lyche, J.L., Bytingsvik, J., Jenssen, B.M., Derocher, A.E., Welker, J.M. and Routti, H. 2019. Temporal trends of persistent organic pollutants in Barents Sea polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in relation to changes in feeding habits and body condition. Environmental Science and Technology 53(2):984-995.

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Tom Halla
November 25, 2022 6:06 am

But the polar bears were supposed to behave to fit the models, so there must be something wrong with the bears?

Reply to  Tom Halla
November 25, 2022 6:43 am

Shouldn’t they be swigging some Coca Cola? They’re so cute and cuddly.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Scissor
November 25, 2022 7:29 am

and hanging out with penguins.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
November 25, 2022 7:41 am

You may be a segregation denier.

Ron Long
Reply to  Scissor
November 25, 2022 9:07 am

And hug them and squeeze them and have your picture taken with them (you know, before it’s too late).

Reply to  Ron Long
November 25, 2022 10:26 am

Too late as in no more bears, or no more you?

Reply to  Scissor
November 25, 2022 1:16 pm

… and Bundy Rum!

November 25, 2022 7:15 am

The Polar Bears are not following the Alarmists’ predictions. Bad bears!!

Tom in Florida
November 25, 2022 7:29 am

Perhaps the idea that polar bears need lots of sea ice is just wrong.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Tom in Florida
November 25, 2022 8:49 am

As we’ve very little data about Polar Bears and very little sea ice how can anyone say for sure?
All we can say is that they’ve survived previous warm periods

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
November 25, 2022 9:19 am

All we can say is that they’ve survived previous warm periods

Exactly Ben!


“Of 140 sites across the western Arctic, there is clear evidence for conditions that were warmer than now at 120 sites. At 16 sites for which quantitative estimates have been obtained, local temperatures were on average 1.6±0.8 °C higher during the optimum than now. Northwestern North America reached peak warmth first, from 11,000 to 9,000 years ago, but the Laurentide Ice Sheet still chilled eastern Canada. Northeastern North America experienced peak warming 4,000 years later. Along the Arctic Coastal Plain in Alaska, there are indications of summer temperatures 2–3 °C warmer than now.[9] Research indicates that the Arctic had less sea ice than now”

John Hultquist
November 25, 2022 9:26 am

 Is it too soon to declare Andrew Derocher the Paul Erlich of the 21st Century? Andy has not reached the esteemed level 😂 of Paul but is closing on the top ranks of the failed predictors.  

November 25, 2022 10:16 am

Twenty-odd years ago some friends were teaching in a community on the northern tip of the Ungava peninsula. I expressed interest in getting a bear skin. A couple of years later I got a phone call that my bear had been shipped. What arrived was a frozen bundle of raw skin. I found a taxidermist fast. The bear was shot by an Inuit hunter and was properly tagged – otherwise the taxidermist would have refused to process the skin.

My grandson was just crawling when the bear was put on our bedroom floor. He got to a few feet of the head, suddenly saw it and screamed blue murder. Even an 8 month old reacts with appropriate terror to big teeth.

Henry Pool
November 25, 2022 10:21 am

Ja. Ja. Man is crazy if he thinks he can control the weather …..


Henry Pool
Reply to  Henry Pool
November 25, 2022 10:22 am

Unless he has faith …..

Ireneusz Palmowski
November 25, 2022 11:33 am

The heat spot will remain on Svalbard, just as it did during the Little Ice Age. In contrast, a powerful high will develop over Eastern Europe, just as it did during the Little Ice Age.
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November 25, 2022 1:24 pm

But the polar bears were climate is supposed to behave to fit the models, so there must be something wrong with the bears? observed climate data?

Rick K
November 25, 2022 5:47 pm

Is the state of ice extent near Svalbard highly dependent on the current state of the AMO?

Ireneusz Palmowski
Reply to  Rick K
November 25, 2022 11:01 pm

In winter, it depends primarily on the pattern of the stratospheric polar vortex, which now looks like this. Watch for updates.
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