Polar Bear Blog – Hudson Bay Lowlands

Winter seems to be right on schedule, or possibly even ahead, in Churchill right now. A light snow blanketed the streets this morning, one of a few dustings that has occurred this season. Mid-October in Churchill is a matter of degrees. The ‘normals’ for this time range between -2 and +2C for the day and down between 0C and -5C for the nights. This is the time of year where one or two degrees can really make a difference. If you it is a few degrees warmer, your snow falls as rain and almost pushes winter back a couple weeks. If your daytime highs hit just zero degrees, then another few inches of ice build up on the edge of the lakes and ponds. Only a week or two of -1 or -2C can freeze these little lakes enough for bears to really start moving. Then again, a four or five days ‘warm spell’ can undo a lot of winter’s progress pretty quick.

But, right now, things are looking pretty good for bear season. There are about a dozen early season bears in buggyland and bear shots heard at night around town. A pretty decent start with more on their way.

Speaking of which, word is out that Dancer has come back a couple weeks early but looking pretty rough. First spotted at Tundra Buggy camp then making his way over to Great White Bear. He should be on his way to Ladoon’s by now to camp out for the rest of the season. Dancer’s has showed up skinny a couple other times and come back fat the next year so who knows… Then again, you have to remember that he is about five or six years past a male polar bear’s life expectancy…

A study came out this September stating that Hudson Bay passed a global warming tipping point in the mid-1990s and has warmed 3C over the last twenty years. They studied lake sediments to get a record of climate patterns and figure that changing vegetation, etc are on over-drive now. Waiting to get a copy of this study, my only hesitation with these results is that the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption really affected the Hudson Bay ecoregion, cooling the summers considerably. If they used 1992-93 as a baseline, well, the warming effects might be slightly exaggerated. Pinatubo lowered the northern hemisphere by about half a degree and likely more along Hudson Bay. On the other hand, 1999/2000 were pretty messed up years for climate on Hudson Bay.

I get a bit more hesitatnt when the articles reference the fact that there is no historical climatological data for Hudson Bay. In fact, Hudson Bay has the longest usable climate records of any place on the planet. The Hudson’s Bay Company archives are full of daily weather recordings and trends from Churchill and York Factory. Truly disappointing that this seems to have been missed, yet again. Also a bit surprised that Hudson Bay was referred to as ‘relatively resistant to change’… which is surprising as the HBC record show wild fluctuations in climate over the last 300 years. We’ll see, should be an interesting read at the very least… expectations are fairly low.

Another research project just explained that the Yeti or Abominable Snowman was actually a descendant from an ancient polar bear bloodline. Whether it was a hybrid bear or sub-species of polar bear is unknown but it sure opens up some pretty interesting ideas about polar bears’ capabilities for survival and adaptability. Cool stuff… then again the Yeti could have just had a pet polar bear as well.

There’s also kind of a neat story about an Alaska entrepreneur developing oil recovery technology – probably something Churchill should start looking at. Plus,here’s a neat link to WWF’s efforts to track killer whales along Baffin Island… I know there were Orcas up around Repulse Bay this summer but no sightings near Churchill that I heard of.

That’s about it, on the bayline tomorrow.

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