Scientific Roundup: Poles warming, bears starving

Two separate scientific surveys of climate change at the North and South Poles have just revealed new evidence that the poles are warming faster than expected.

The International Polar Year 2007-2008 endorsed the work of over 160 different scientific projects to carry out a wide variety of research. Together, the scientists’ work illustrates the dramatic effects that global warming is having in the Arctic and Antarctic. Among these findings are:

  • The rate of ice loss in Greenland is accelerating
  • Arctic permafrost contains more carbon dioxide reserves than previously believed, meaning that more greenhouse gases will be released into the air as the permafrost melts
  • The amount of Arctic sea ice was the smallest it has ever been in the summers of 2007 and 2008 since recording began thirty years ago
  • Insect and fungi infections have increased due to warmer temperatures
Researcher with Siberian children. Copyright IPY.
Researcher with Siberian children. Copyright IPY.

The IPY survey is unique in that it includes research from indigenous communities. While for most people, melting ice caps and warming oceans are problems thousands of miles away without precipitable effects, it’s easy to forget that there are people whose lifestyles are changing in the present due to global warming.

The IPY report is available here in various languages.

UN Scientists working for the International Panel for Climate Change have also found that 11 out of the past 12 years, the earth experienced the warmest global surface temperatures in recorded history (Voice of America).

Yet another study brings more troublesome news with regard to polar bears, which are having an increasingly difficult time obtaining food. Scientists compared blood samples taken from bears in 1985-1986 to blood samples taken twenty years later and were able to determine that 1/3 of the animals are now fasting.

Polar bears are not the only animals affected by disappearing ice caps. Ring seals need ice to nurse their pups. If the population of ring seals decreases, this will adversely affect polar bears, which prey on them.

It is estimated that 2/3 of the world’s polar bears will be gone by 2050. The only remaining populations will be in the Canada’s High Arctic and western Greenland.

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