Sep 15, 2020 11:16 PM EDT
Scientists have found a new use for GPS tracking collars dropped by polar bears: they showed drifting ice movement.
Removable Neck Bands
Scientists put on “removable” GPS tracking collars on polar bears to study them. The bears, however, do not have to endure these collars. They can easily remove them if they find it irritating. This is why researchers have purposefully made the collars girthy and humongous.
But because the bears do take them off, scientists found a way to use the signals emitted by the discarded collars.
(Photo : The Polar Bear Programme)
File photo: Vladimir Putin and the researchers attach a satellite-tracked GPS collar on a polar bear.
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Tracking Ice Instead of Bears
According to the University of Alberta polar bear researcher Natasha Klappstein, scientists usually consider the data from dropped collars as garbage data.
However, she collaborated with researchers from Environment & Climate Change Canada and the University of British Columbia to find a way to keep the data useful.
The collars were left on the Hudson Bay’s sea ice in Canada, and the researchers got the measurements transmitted to track, not bears, but drifting ice.
A Study from Discarded Collars
The researchers published their findings last June in the journal The Cryosphere. In the paper, the researchers discussed how they selected 20 discarded collars that transmitted data of movements consistent with drifting ice instead of moving polar bears.
They conducted their study between 2005 & 2015, and they found that melting ice usually drifts uniquely in Hudson Bay. In the area, no ground sensors are easily accessible or present. The observations of satellites are a little inaccurate when it comes to recording the movements of small-sized ice sheets.
(Photo : Pixabay)
Scientists have found a new use for GPS tracking collars dropped by polar bears: they showed the movement of drifting ice.
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The research team made comparisons of the discarded collars’ movements with the commonly used modeling data for ice drift by the US NSIDC or National Snow & Ice Data Center.
The data showed that NSIDC’s model underestimates the actual speed and overall extent of drifting of the ice moving in the area.
Importance of the Study
The research team has provided essential insight into how mobile drifting ice can be useful. According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks geophysicist Andy Mahoney, the increased rate of melting will see drifting ice becoming more common in the far north or central Arctic in the following years. He was not part of the study research team.
Scientists have already known that the NSIDC data may be underestimating drift speeds, according to Mahoney. He says, however, that filling up data gaps is always right.
NSIDC senior research scientist Walt Meier also says that this data can improve the predictions on how oil spills and other pollutants spread in seas that have drifting ice litter. He was also not part of the study research team.
Meier says that the study’s findings can influence NSIDC models in the future, saying that the research, which used GPS tracking collars discarded by polar bears, produced a “really nice” data set that the NSIDC will undoubtedly consider.
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