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Polar bears walk on water?

Polar bears are remarkable creatures, but I bet you don't know just how remarkable they are. Scientists tracking some of these majestic beasts in the Southern Beaufort sea using radio-collars have determined that some of them spent the whole of the month of August in an area in which there was almost no sea ice!

From this remarkable set of observations a number of possible conclusions are possible. Are bears able to swim for weeks at a time? Or are they able to walk on water? In fact, as Susan Crockford explains, there are also more plausible stories, most likely of which is the possibility that what the satellites see as open water is in fact melt ponds above solid ice.

Which can at least give one pause for thought when considering the alleged death spiral of the Arctic sea ice.


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Reader Comments (46)

Are you sure it wasn't Obama? He was up there recently and he can walk on water.

Sep 3, 2015 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Schofield

Positioning out? Could it all be taking place on the land to the north?

Sep 3, 2015 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage


[..] some of them spent the whole of the month of August in an area in which there was almost no sea ice!

Well, this is awkward..

Sep 3, 2015 at 9:13 AM | Registered CommenterSimon Hopkinson


Sep 3, 2015 at 9:15 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

They really need to leave them alone. Darting them and hanging bits of techno cr*p round their necks is wrong.

Wasn't so long ago where the Norwegians were going to fine a BBC film maker pursuing a polar bear unecessarily.

Sep 3, 2015 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterEx-expat Colin

According to the WWF "scientist" on the BBC news yesterday, due to the melting ice the polar bears in Siberia are being driven further and further south to find food, preferably humans. Polar bears halt Arctic research in north Russia

Sep 3, 2015 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Priceless! LOL

So much for drowning polar bears.

Sep 3, 2015 at 9:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

Only two conclusions here and neither fit the "Alarmist" narrative.
1) Sea ice is being grossly underestimated by satellite mapping.
2) Polare bears don't give the proverbial whether they move around on ice, or in the water.

Sep 3, 2015 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&Twisted

Maybe they were the drowned corpses floating around.

Or maybe the bears ride around on the backs of whales. Could happen…seems about as plausible as most of modern climate science’s conclusions.


Sep 3, 2015 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterLynn Clark

Polar bear, Latin name "Ursus _maritimus_"... that should be a clue...

Sep 3, 2015 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeerke

Google "PolarBearsInternational" and you'll find some useful links, particularly about the hollow insulating "tubes" that make up their fur and provide buoyancy.
Scrolling down the long list of "scientists" however, only one name rang a bell - Michael E. Mann !

Sep 3, 2015 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered Commentertoad

This would be a 'cracker' artical for Eamonn Holmes on Sky News or would they not broadcast it, because of all the viral protest from the so called green movement that they would get inundated with

Sep 3, 2015 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterBLACK PEARL

With so many scientists and film crew getting stuck in ice, which experts say is not there, the mysterious secrets of the arctic keep re-ravelling.

Obama, and all his highly paid staff really need to check for egg on their faces. Simply accepting the assurances provided by high tech equipment, that they do not have egg on their face, is no proof there isn't any there.

Meanwhile Soviet technology into Stealth floating air bases, cunningly hidden in the Arctic continues to fool US satellite equipment.

Sep 3, 2015 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Those Polar bears are swimming against the current. If they are in the water

Sep 3, 2015 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Kevin Trenberth's missing heat, is hidden in Stealth Polar Bears., floating on rafts of implausible hockey sticks.

Climate Science breaks free from the boundaries of credibility, and is only limited by the gullibility of the people paying for it.

Sep 3, 2015 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Endless entertaining fulfillment of the apocryphal 'An Inconvenient Truth'.

Sep 3, 2015 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

Sep 3, 2015 at 9:03 AM David Schofield.
That's a very PC criticism of Obama; colour-blind.

Sep 3, 2015 at 10:59 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

GPS at that high latitude would give poor accuracy. They have their base positioning with a SW bias if they are using triangulation.

Sep 3, 2015 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat


> This would be a 'cracker' artical for Eamonn Holmes on Sky News or would they not broadcast it, because of all the viral protest from the so called green movement that they would get inundated with

Sky are in bed with WWF ( ). WWF spend lots on advertising on sky and in return sky promote WWF's "news" items. For example Sky news will do a "documentary" piece on the Arctic just as WWF launch its latest save the polar bear campaign.

Sep 3, 2015 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Those Polar bears are swimming against the current. If they are in the water

Sep 3, 2015 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

They might meet more food by swimming against the current?

Sep 3, 2015 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

With their mouths open?


Sep 3, 2015 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

It's obvious 'innit? "Global Warming" made 'em do it. I read somewhere that some bloke did it during the Roman Warm period too..

Sep 3, 2015 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

"With their mouths open?


Sep 3, 2015 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman"

You mean a bit like basking sharks?
That wasn't quite what I had in mind for a polar bear, but many predators do move against the current when hunting/foraging.

Sep 3, 2015 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Mailman, while we're on the topic, for your entertainment.

Sep 3, 2015 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

97% of Polar Bears live longer and healthier lives, by hiding from Polar Bear experts who are trying to save them.

This revelation also pours cold water on every survey intended to count the number of polar bears. Global warming experts could not get enough of dead polar bears.

Expect an unprecedented decline in the number of Polar Bear experts receiving funding. An entire industry built up around declining Polar Bear numbers, may be destroyed, and never seen again.

Experts on dramatic sea level rise, should expect a tsunami to swamp their chances of regular beach holidays on remote tropical islands. Some of these 'Conference Hotels', are going to see their businesses destroyed, by the lack of funding, as nothing particularly dramatic, continues to happen with monotonous regularity.

Hollywood will have to write a whole new series of Disaster Movies, about ruined careers predicting imaginary disasters.

Dr Susan Crockford, please keep up the great work! You knew you were right anyway, but 97% of the population will never be allowed to know.

Sep 3, 2015 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I read it in the North Slope News.
August was to be the period for a summer swimming school for Polar bears. They are always offered swimming schools during school holidays.
Some of them even gained the Bronze Certificate of Competency in Lifesaving.

Sep 3, 2015 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered Commentertoorightmate


GPS at that high latitude would give poor accuracy

GLONASS is fine though, having been designed to work at these high latitudes.

Sep 3, 2015 at 2:20 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

toorightmate, you are correct of course. Healthy polar bears, swimming and eating seals, are not considered photogenic by the gutter press, as demonstrated by the science and environmental correspondents of the Guardian and BBC working in harmony but deaf to logic and reason.

In line with fashion editors in glossy womens magazines, they only want to feature dangerously thin polar bears, too weak to survive in the real world. The great advantage for the climate paparazzi, is that having found and photographed a dying polar bear, it will still be in the same place, but in a worse state a few days later, possibly dead, so you can take more photographs, even move it about a bit into poses, so no one will realise it was the same bear. This is great for selling "exclusives" to multiple different agencies.

Sep 3, 2015 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The bears are cleverer than we thought; apparently theyve figured out how to get the tags off and hang them on Putin's subs...

Sep 3, 2015 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

ok, so we have a basking, swimming against the current, underwater bear, that can outwit an Ecoloon and outswim a seal.

ursus sub-maritimus apricis circumveniamur Greenie veloc

Sep 3, 2015 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Whatever they're doing, it sounds like they're not much at risk from GW.

Sep 3, 2015 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuart B

Thanks Andrew, for highlighting this. As I pointed out, there was a similar issue in June for Hudson Bay bears and it has been acknowledge by the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group as an issue.

While biologist Andrew Derocher was busy on Twitter in June 2015 pushing the ice conditions as dire for Western Hudson Bay bears he simply ignored the fact that the images he posted showed bears collared for his studies in open water, according to the ice maps he was using.

Dr. Susan Crockford

Sep 3, 2015 at 3:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterSusan Crockford

CNN had a story this morning about "hungy" polar bears "laying siege" to a weather station.

The pictures they incluide do not look like hungy polar bears to me - they look pertty heathy actually - and there is no ice anywhere in the photo because it is summer, but they have to include the obligatory declining seal numbers because of declining sea ice meme. Finally they link to the USGS "two-thirds of polar bears will be gone by 2050" - the Amstrup et al 2008 paper that I think Susan has already covered quite extensively.

CNN has no comment option, otherwise I would refer to some real science (i.e. Susan)

Sep 3, 2015 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

Rob, wait for Environmental Experts doing stories about hungry polar bears going without food, guarding their nests against Big Oil funded polar bear egg collectors.

In UK TV reporting, the piece to camera must be presented to show how dangerous it was for the reporter to be on the scene. Wearing wellington boots, standing in a puddle, is not good enough, if you can wear waders up to your waist, and stand in a deeper puddle, to demonstrate that when rivers flood, water gets wetter than ever shown on TV before.

Sep 3, 2015 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Boats, they have a Navy.

Sep 3, 2015 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

Here is my tweet from yesterday on the BBC version of the CNN story of the Russian bears:

Sep 3, 2015 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterSusan Crockford

It seems not to have occurred to anyone writing these stories about the Russian bears that if they were really hungry (and not simply bored and curious), they'd already have dispatched these people. Pretty flimsy looking house they live in...

Sep 3, 2015 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterSusan Crockford

I'll leave it to Dr Crockford to confirm this or not, but my money is on a small group of bears that have figured out how to get the collars off and have subsequantly placed them on seals.

As a subject for future research I propose studying the bears to determine if they are doing this to

a) figure out where their food hangs out during the summer


b) as a means to f...k with certain polar bear scientists

If anyone finds a photo of a bear flashing the finger to Andy Deroacher or Ian Sterling, I believe we will have our evidence.

Sep 3, 2015 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

What is the definition for "open water" in the figure at the top of this post?

If it is the common "less than 15% ice", then it is quite possible the bears have been swimming from floe to floe while only spending a small fraction of the time in the water.

Sep 3, 2015 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie A

To paraphrase Leonard Cohen, "We are dazzled by the beauty of our data..."

Some often dismiss something that has happened in practice as it doesn't fit their theory.

Here we have someone accepting something because it fits their theory, but it isn't happening in practice.

Glad the science is settled, this would be embarrassing for somebody otherwise.

Sep 3, 2015 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaligula Jones

Charlie A.

Following the USGS links to their ice data, they are using University of Bremen ice maps. The link says extent uses 15% as the lower limit

However, the map USGS uses is concentration and the legend on the map says dark blue is "0-10%"

You are right of course, but a casual observer would interpret dark blue as open water. Few of these maps explicitly state their lower limits and you sometimes have to dig quite deep to find what the cut-off is (some use 30%).

Sep 3, 2015 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterSusan Crockford

"Or maybe the bears ride around on the backs of whales."

Will this do?

[Trigger warning: gun]

Sep 3, 2015 at 9:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterPiperPaul

Maybe they're dead. Dead poley bears float. Oh, wait. So do live ones. Never mind.

Sep 4, 2015 at 3:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

" almost no sea ice!"

Too much recalls what the lookouts reported just before the Titanic struck an urban heat island and sank with the loss of all polar bears

Sep 4, 2015 at 7:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

vvussell, just goes to prove that nothing has changed since 1912 when it comes to spotting ice. Relying on best available evidence, is so unreliable, there is always more.

Sep 4, 2015 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Having used orbital recon since the Seventies, I can testify that growlers capable of floating bears defy detection at the 20M per pixel limit of commercial satelite resoution.

Gets worse in the case of one year old 'black ice'. bright algal blooms and undershine.

Sep 6, 2015 at 5:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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