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Drat those bears

19 Aug 2020 | OP ED Watch

Remember Al Gore’s famous CGI doomed polar bear unable to clamber onto that last shard of ice? Well, it seems the real ones have a neat trick. They are able to walk around on ice that’s not there. At least so we’re told by Susan Crockford, who reports that collared female polar bears on the western shore of Hudson Bay are alive not dead and “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.” As she notes, there are two significant possibilities here. One is that there’s ice the satellites aren’t able to detect, which would throw cold water, frozen or liquid, on all our firm “since satellite records began” discussions of Arctic ice. And the other is that the experts are all wet on the subject of how much ice bears need to hunt out there which again makes something of a mess of all the models of their imminent demise take 14.

Another study says that based on what happened in the last interglacial (LIG), the “Eemian” between 130 kya and 116 kya, all that stupid stubborn Arctic ice will finally melt by 2035. We are delighted that they’re looking at the past and trying to incorporate it into their understanding of the present, including their admission that “Stronger LIG summertime insolation at high northern latitudes drove Arctic land summer temperatures 4–5 °C higher than in the pre-industrial era. Climate model simulations have previously failed to capture these elevated temperatures” although we’re a bit skeptical at their claim that the newest, shiniest ones do so. But look again at that figure of “temperatures 4–5 °C higher than in the pre-industrial era”.

Oh really? Driven by CO2 emissions? Well, no, of course not. Triggering catastrophic extinctions? Well, no, evidently not. Leading to a runaway greenhouse effect? Well, no. But apart from that, a perfect analogy to current conditions. Which we don’t even know what they are anyway.

Including that a new study says there are far more Emperor penguins than scientists thought; tracking their poop from space led researchers to “11 additional colonies in the Antarctic” which “provide a welcome boost to population numbers by around 25,000 to 50,000” though of course “the researchers, of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), warned the locations are likely to be impacted by climate change, signaling potential disaster for the great birds.” The data may change but the conclusion does not.

As usual there’s much more to say, about ice, bears and beyond, and Crockford does, including about whether melt ponds hide ice from satellites without causing bears a lot of grief. But what it comes down to is this: The science is not settled and neither is the fate of the bears. Or penguins. Or civilization.

One comment on “Drat those bears”

  1. Polar bears are clearly larger than even Kodiak grizzley. But they are not listed as the largest bear. Why not? Well because they are classified as aquatic mammals....like a sea otter. So ice is nice for a polar bear but water is essential

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