Polar bear habitat around Svalbard Norway above average despite high temps in N. Atlantic

From Polar Bear Science

Susan Crockford

Sea ice extent for Svalbard was above average yesterday and has been since 17 July, despite “record-breaking” sea surface temperatures in June.

The temperature anomaly for June in the North Atlantic was 2-3 C above average, see image below.

Overall, the Barents Sea polar bear subpopulation region still has concentrated pack ice to the north and around Franz Josef Land in the east:

Oddly, sea ice over the Barents Sea in 2016 at 20 July was much less than this year (see below), after a June of apparently unremarkable North Atlantic sea surface temperatures.

As for the status of polar bears around Svalbard, Norwegian scientists who monitor the bears have not updated the MOSJ website with data from this spring’s research, as they have been doing for the last several years at least. Last year this chore was completed by 31 May and I reported on it in June. I’ve never seen it go this late and there has been no explanation for the delay.

For more from Dr. Crockford, go to our ClimateTV page

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July 27, 2023 6:26 pm

There’s been a steady flow of seaice towards Svalbard which could explain it.


Ireneusz Palmowski
Reply to  Phil.
July 28, 2023 10:29 am

Stationary lows over the North Atlantic and highs over Greenland can be seen, resulting in an influx of Arctic air all the way to central Europe.
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Richard Page
Reply to  Ireneusz Palmowski
July 28, 2023 2:02 pm

I think you’d really need to go back over the past few months to see what has happened – this isn’t a sudden occurrence, it’s an ongoing situation in the region. There were Feb/May storms which broke up a lot of the sea ice (driving some of it towards Greenland), followed by a bit of a ‘re-freeze’ in the eastern Arctic but not in the Hudson Bay area and some of the western areas. I think the sea ice around Svalbard may have thickened up during that ‘re-freeze’ and has persisted until now. Temperatures appear to have been about average, or below average, certainly in the eastern regions of the Arctic for several months.

Caleb Shaw
Reply to  Phil.
July 29, 2023 3:23 am

What determines whether the waters north and west of Svalbard are open is largely due to the strength and temperature of the WSC (West Spitsbergen Current). When it is in its warm mode I have it witnessed it melt surprisingly thick and sturdy masses of sea-ice blown south from the Central Arctic into its flow in a matter of mere days. This is not a new thing brought on by Global Warming, as Willem Barentsz was able to explore the north coast of Svalbard (and name a fjord ) in 1596, (and the sailing ships of his time were notoriously bad when it came to their capacity as icebreakers.)

What is less well understood is why the WSC shifts into a colder mode. Arrays of buoys are still gathering data at various levels. What has been seen is that sometimes the ocean stratifies the water in terms of temperature and salinity, and sometimes this stratification is disturbed. What is disturbing it?

The suggestion that seafloor volcanism sends up plumes of warmer water brings about heated (ha ha) debate. The more I study the topic the more I wonder. Every time they look down deep they discover things they never expected. The pressures are so great once you get down more than half a mile gasses do not behave the same. Explosive volcanoes are theoretically impossible, yet there is evidence of explosive eruptions. Much needs to be studied further. (Send money.)

One thing I find curious is holes that appear in the arctic sea-ice, not cracked as leads but apparently melted from below, even in the cold of March when ice is thickest. (Image below from 2021).

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If such plumes exist they would not only mess up the stratification scientists have worked very hard, under deplorable conditions, to map, but to a degree they would reverse the thermohaline circulation, as we understand it. Warm water is suppose to flow north, cool, and sink. To have a plume rising smack dab in the middle f’s everything up (and the Gammel Ridge is pretty much located smack dab in the middle.) Lastly, funding tends to become scarce when you say something besides CO2 is melting the sea-ice.

Post from 2021:


Post from 2022:


Dave Fair
July 27, 2023 9:23 pm

Too bad white bears can’t jump.

John Hultquist
Reply to  Dave Fair
July 27, 2023 9:38 pm

. . . and get to the soft food inside the helicopter.

Reply to  John Hultquist
July 27, 2023 10:15 pm

We’re big, soft and yummy. No sharp teeth or claws or spikes or venom or poison. And we’re kept in warm boxes so we stay fresh until the next meal.

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