(OurAmazingPlanet Staff/LiveScience.com via Yahoo! News, 7 May 2012) -- Arctic sea ice has persistently dwindled over the last three decades, yet sea ice set record highs in waters around Alaska this past winter. Ice in the Bering Sea not only covered more area than usual, it also stuck around longer, bucking the downward trend in sea ice cover observed since 1979, when satellite records for the region began. The Arctic as a whole had below-average sea ice cover during the 2011 to 2012 winter season. At its maximum, reached in mid-March, sea ice covered 5.88 million square miles (15.24 million square kilometers), the ninth lowest in the satellite record. Yet Alaskan waters were choked with ice. Sea ice cover in the Bering Sea was well above normal for much of the season, and reached a record-high extent in March 2012. In addition, ice surrounded the Pribilof Islands, tiny volcanic islands in the middle of the Bering Sea, for a record number of days this winter. On May 3, ice had surrounded St. Paul Island for 103 days, up from the record of 100 days, set in 2010. The record ice numbers were fueled by two main factors: low temperatures and strong winds from the north. Persistent winds pushed ice from the Arctic Ocean down toward the Bering Strait, which acted as a temporary dam, trapping the sea ice in a bottleneck. The sea ice continued to pile up, and the icy barrier eventually collapsed, allowing the trapped ice to surge southward into the Bering Sea. Alaska's mainland spent this last winter in the grip of bone-chilling low temperatures and record-high snowfalls, the result of cyclical climate conditions that kept much of the lower 48 states at record high temperatures, while plunging Alaska into a deep freeze that helped keep the ice frozen.
Posted 7 May 2012; 5:17:02 PM. Permalink
(CBC News via Eye on the Arctic, 7 May 2012) -- Whale Cove, a small predominantly Inuit community in Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, is being ruffled by the rare sighting of a bald eagle. Elder Sam Arualak, who has spent most of his life in Whale Cove, said bald eagles are not common to the area. "No, not at all, you don't see them around here," he said in Inuktitut, the Inuit language dialect spoken in the community. "I think they usually belong along the treeline. It is rare to see them in Nunavut." According to residents, the large bird of prey has been feeding in the community of about 400 people along the western coast of Hudson Bay. An Environment Canada spokesperson confirmed the bird is a bald eagle and that it is outside its normal range. Mary-Jones Kriterdluk said the eagle's arrival has caused some excitement. She added it was the biggest bird she had ever seen and that many people were taking photos of it. "It is huge," she said in Inuktitut.
Posted 7 May 2012; 5:09:58 PM. Permalink
(Iceland Review News, 7 May 2012) -- Mink meat might become a valuable byproduct for Icelandic fur farmers as Chinese importers have expressed interest in buying meat at mink farms in Skagafjörður, north Iceland. The local meat product company, KS in Sauðárkrókur, has received a number of requests from keen buyers in China in recent years, and at the end of May their representatives will visit the region, ruv.is reports. “I find it an exciting prospect. In mink farming we aim to feed the animals on excess material from fish and meat production […] so we find it very positive if the carcasses can be used for human consumption or other purposes,” said fur farming consultant Einar E. Einarsson. According to Einar, mink meat is a delicacy in Asia. He has tried it himself and found it tasty. There are 24 fur farms in Iceland and the industry is on the increase. Mink skins are sought after and the price has never been higher. The local production amounts to 160,000 skins per year while the mink carcasses are used for soil production or have simply been buried, some 150 tons per year. “A meeting has been scheduled where further information can be obtained on how much they’d like to pay for it and how the procedure would be. If it is doable, farmers are definitely willing to participate,” Einar concluded.
Posted 7 May 2012; 4:33:12 PM. Permalink
(Ed Struzik/Times Colonist, 6 May 2012) -- University of Alberta scientist Andrew Derocher was in the High Arctic in late April getting a rare, first-hand glimpse of what the future of the Arctic might look like right around the time 3,000 researchers, policy-makers and indigenous leaders were gathered in Montreal at the International Polar Year 2012 conference to try to imagine the same thing. Derocher was on the sea ice catching and tagging polar bears off the coast of Victoria Island when Inuvialuit hunter Pat Epakohak hunted and killed a female polar bear that had two very unusual-looking cubs with her. "One of the cubs was very grizzly-bear-like and the other looked more like a polar bear," Derocher wrote in an email after getting a chance to look at the carcasses of the animals. "I guess we can expect more of these hybrids as the population of grizzly bears continues to grow in this part of the world." Up until about 20 years ago, sightings of grizzlies in the High Arctic were extremely rare, a quirk of nature, many biologists thought, that may have occurred because the bear walked the wrong way or strayed too far following mainland caribou that sometimes cross the sea ice to Arctic islands. No one imagined that hybrids such as the one Derocher saw would be part of the land or seascape. But that thinking began to change in recent years as more brown bears and a succession of other animals, such as red fox, coyotes, white-tailed deer, Pacific salmon and killer whales, began showing up in areas traditionally occupied by Arctic fox, Arctic wolves, caribou, Arctic char and beluga whales. Some of these animals, we now know, are also producing hybrids.
Posted 7 May 2012; 4:28:33 PM. Permalink