Well, this could be an interesting year… Bears are spread out along the coast with good sightings at Arviat, Seal River and Churchill. For some bears, its been a banner year especially if they rode the sea ice far south into Ontario. From all reports, its looking like a good year and hopefully this means a good cub production year as well, looks like our bears may need it.
I’ve written about the Pacific Blob and a potential El Nino (The Little Boy) for a while now but now it looks like these two might be combining to create a ‘Godzilla El Nino’… cool right?! Who doesn’t like Godzilla…
Well, besides King Kong, it seems that Churchill’s bears are no fans of Godzilla or El Nino for that matter. The last major El Nino event ‘may’ have wiped out almost a quarter of the population… this weather pattern seems to have some major effects on Hudson Bay Sea Ice – later freezes and earlier breakups for at least a few years.
But before I get too doom and gloomy, I suppose I should try to explain an El Nino. This is a weather pattern that usually forms off the Pacific Coast of South America. Usually trade winds push warm water west to Indonesia, cool water wells up near Peru. Ocean temperatures off Indonesia may be 8C warmer than the Peruvian coast. This temperature difference is what helps shape the jet stream.
Sometimes these trade winds weaken and gravity basically pulls a lot of this warm water back towards South America. Rainfall migrates east across the Pacific and, naturally, global weather patterns get a little ‘wonky’.
An El Nino becomes ‘official’ when ocean temperatures are 0.5C above the historical average for three months in a row. Much like the last solar peak (and northern lights peak), El Nino has given us a bunch of false starts in the past few years and, generally, not listened to scientific predictions. Go figure.
This year, scientists have been ready to declare it a weak El Nino year since March… but now it seems like the Little Boy is about to make a dramatically late arrival, like Batman dramatic. Also for their part, scientists are quite consternated by the term Godzilla El Nino. Godzilla, Batman or not, El Nino seems to be getting stronger and stronger as the summer progresses.
The last major El Nino, let’s call it the Mothra El Nino for some perspective, arrived in 97-98 and triggered our first real record global warming years and really launched (rightly or wrongly) climate change into the mainstream media… which does most things wrongly but that’s not the point.
So if Godzilla lasts through the winter and well into spring, that could be really really bad for polar bears, especially the Hudson Bay bears – if 97-98 can be used as a measuring stick. Again, I still believe that Western Hudson Bay lost 22% of its population between 98-2001 and not a long-term, continuous decline as has been portrayed… but that’s just me.
Then again, Mother Nature is never predictable, a major El Nino in the mid-60s had almost the opposite effect on weather patterns than it ‘should’ have… so who knows. At face value though, this El Nino probably signals a late freeze along Hudson Bay… so some of the best bear photography might be in mid- to late November, that’s my hunch anyway – bear season bears will arrive late and leave late.
On the upside, all this research about El Nino led me to this awesome Blue Oyster Cult video… enjoy!
Full Disclosure: I do prefer Edgar Winter Group to Blue Oyster Cult.