Photographer Patty Waymire traveled to Alaska’s Barter Island from late September to early October with an express purpose: To take pictures of polar bears in their natural environment, surrounded by picturesque snow.
But there was no snow to be found.
“I was surprised when I arrived, to find there was no snow nor was the sea ice forming yet,” Waymire told The Huffington Post. “The locals told me that it was an unusually warm winter and that the snow would be late in arriving. It is one of the warmest winters on record.”
So instead, she photographed the bears on patches of sand and dirt, or swimming in the Beaufort Sea. One photo — “No Snow, No Ice,” above — which shows a solitary bear looking down into the water, won an honorable mention in a National Geographic photo competition and has been hailed as a poignant depiction of the effects of climate change.
Temperatures in the Arctic are predicted to soar nearly 50 degrees above normal on Thursday in a pre-Christmas heat wave that will bring the frozen tundra scarily close to the melting point.
It’s the second year in a row the North Pole ― now in perpetual darkness after saying goodbye to the sun in late October ― has seen abnormally high temperatures around the Christmas holiday. It’s also the second time this year. In November, temperatures in the region skyrocketed 36 degrees above normal.