Researchers see a new pattern in the arrival of polar bears to Iceland

Bears seem to arrive in Iceland when pack ice melts from beneath them.

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A photo of a polar bear spotted in Skagafjörður, North Iceland in 2016. This polar bear was discovered near a farm where children were playing and was shot by local police. (Rax / Ragnar Axelsson / Iceland Monitor)

“Polar bears used to arrive in Iceland when there was a lot of pack ice but now we seem to have entered a period of time when polar bears arrive when pack ice rapidly melts beneath them,” says Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir, geographer and professor at the University of Iceland speaking to mbl.is.

A polar bear sighting was reported in Melrakkaslétta on Saturday but the search was called off Tuesday as nothing was found.

Jónsdóttir says, however, that June conditions were feasible for polar bears to arrive on Iceland’s shores when pack ice was reaching towards Skagafjörður in North Iceland.

“Then we had some northeasterly currents which caused the pack ice to break up rapidly and it’s as if the bears are always getting into trouble in these conditions,” she said. “They’ve drifted far east and then suddenly the ice breaks up beneath them and they have to reach shore rather than returning.”

She believes a pattern is being formed in the arrival of polar bears to Iceland.

“If there is a bear there, it’s a similar pattern to 2008 and 2010. We’ve seen this a few times now since 2008 when three polar bears arrived and then a few times after that. ”

She adds that polar bears can swim very far and that icebergs don’t even have to be close to the coast for them to get from Greenland all the way to Iceland.