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Arctic Sea Ice Levels Plummet to Record Lows

 

This video illustrates how melting sea ice is forcing polar bears to swim longer distances in search for stable ice.

Extreme melting has driven Arctic sea ice levels to record lows, according to polar scientists. Sea ice is now the thinnest it has ever been in recorded history. The 2011 levels are roughly the same as 2007 levels for having the least amount of surface area. August 2011 was the second warmest month since satellite monitoring began, which reveals the culprit for the Arctic ice melt: global warming.

Climate change has forced Arctic sea ice into a downward spiral, which is having disastrous results for Arctic animals and people including:

  • Polar bears are forced to swim longer distances because of more open water and less sea ice, according to a WWF study. This puts cubs at risk of exhaustion and drowning when they search for stable ice to live on and hunt from.
  • Polar bear litter sizes are declining because pregnant mothers aren’t able to get enough to eat before abandoning the melting ice. If this trend continues and sea ice breaks up two months earlier than usual, scientists estimate that 55-100% of pregnant polar bears living in the southern Hudson Bay could fail to bring their cubs to term.
  • Twenty thousand walrus “hauled out” onto a small beach in Alaska this summer after the sea ice disappeared. Crowded conditions can become fatal in the event of a stampede.  In 2009, US government scientists found 131 dead walrus calves near that year’s large haul out and attributed the deaths to the lack of sea ice.
  • Hundreds of Alaskan villages face flooding and increased erosion due to climatic changes. Some village leaders have deemed it necessary to entirely relocate their village to more stable ground.

Just as alarming, studies show that this sharp drop in Arctic ice disrupts global weather patterns as well, contributing to heavier winter snows in the United States and continuing the onslaught of extreme weather we’ve faced in recent years.

These alarming developments provide more reasons why, now more than ever, we must urge our leaders in Washington, DC and city hall to both curb carbon pollution and prepare for climate disruptions already upon us.

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