International Polar Bear Day – February 27

The winter of 2019 has broken all sorts of records – record snow here in the Pacific Northwest, record cold temperatures in the Midwest, the “Polar Vortex.”   This inevitably leads to arguments by some, who don’t understand the science, that there is no such thing as “global warming.”  They believe it’s a hoax, after all, how can there be “global warming” when we have record cold?

Global Warming vs. Climate Change

Some years ago, I had an opportunity to have a private discussion with the president of one of the leading environmental organizations in the US. I believed (and still do,) that we are doing an injustice if we refer to this as global warming. It only leads to those who reject the science to use excuses when we have extreme cold weather events.

He agreed with me. But proceeded to use the tern “global warming” during his presentation. Today, the term global warming continues to be used, even by scientists –the Union for Concerned Scientists have global warming as a heading on their website.

So, What is Climate Change? 

 Green house gases in the atmosphere act like a blanket that keeps our planet warm. This protective blanket makes the planet inhabitable. But, due to the increased level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere (due to the burning of fossil fuels and other factors, such as deforestation), we’ve added a second blanket of sorts, causing temperatures to rise. Warming leads to more warming.

The scientific evidence is clear. Within the scientific community, there is no debate. An overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that global warming is happening and that human activity is the primary cause.

Global warming is already having significant and harmful effects on our communities, our health, and our climate. Sea level rise is accelerating. The number of large wildfires is growing. Dangerous heat waves are becoming more common. Extreme storm events are increasing in many areas. More severe droughts are occurring in others.

If Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International, had his way, every news report on the latest weather disaster would end with these words:

 “Events like these will continue to increase in number and severity as the world continues to warm.”

The Loss of Sea Ice

Take a look at the video image (link) below. It is a fascinating illustration of the changes to Arctic sea ice between 1984 and 2016. The pulsing shows sea ice formation in winter and melting in summer.The younger sea ice, or first-year ice, is shown in a dark shade of blue while the ice that is four years old or older is shown as white. A bar graph displayed in the lower right corner quantifies the area in square kilometers covered by each age category of perennial sea ice.


The Loss of Sea Ice = Loss of Polar Bear Habitat

Home for polar bears is on the Arctic sea ice, where they hunt ringed seals in open leads. They rely on sea ice to find and catch most of their prey – it’s not easy to catch prey in an open ocean.

The sea ice is vast and ever-changing. Because of this, a polar bear’s home range can be enormous—far greater than any other species of bear. The size of a polar bear’s range depends on two main factors: the quality of the sea ice and the availability of their seal prey.

Unlike other large carnivores, polar bears don’t have territories, partly because their sea ice habitat is always moving and seasonally changing, expanding in winter and retreating in summer.

Polar bears are the proverbial “canary in the cold mine.”  Today, the primary conservation concern for polar bears is the loss of their sea-ice habitat and reduced access to their seal prey, a problem caused by climate change.

February 27, each year, has been designated International Polar Bear Day. Every year, this global event draws attention to the challenges polar bears face in a warming Arctic—and how each of us can help.

You’re invited to celebrate with us, alongside Polar Bears International. Polar Bears International will offer live, short broadcasts during the day from an array of scientists, staff, and special guests. You’ll even have an opportunity to post your questions. Someone will be talking about polar bears and polar bear research nearly every hour from 8 am to 8 pm Eastern Time, from several countries including the U.S., Canada, Norway, and Denmark. And if you miss them live, you can watch later!

Please plan on joining us on February 27th.