August 24, 2008

Polar bears

Earlier this year, Newsweek had a good article about the difficult future faced by polar bears, which I have mentioned in a post about penguins and another about gorillas ... but hey.. polar bears are cute enough to deserve their own post! :)

Well.. an opportunity presents itself with this report today of polar bears swimming in open water.
Ten polar bears, an unusually large number, were seen swimming in open water off the northern coast of Alaska recently, some heading for shore and some heading toward the retreating ice in the Chukchi Sea, two U.S. government officials confirmed on Friday.


Polar bear sightings in open water were infrequent until about 2004, Miller said, but rising temperatures have melted much of the ice platform on which they live and hunt for seals. In May, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne put the U.S. polar bear population under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, primarily because of the loss of its sea ice habitat.

"It's not unusual for bears to be swimming," Miller said, "but depending on their condition and how much time they're spending in the water, this could be problematic. It's going to cost them more energy to swim through water than travel on land."

In addition, more bears have been sighted on land in July and August than in the past - a possible result of the retreating of the sea ice. But "it's not a clear-cut situation," Miller said, noting that most bears captured by biologists this spring on the ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas have been in good condition. So have several bears caught on land this month.

Polar bears in open water may or may not be a bad thing in and by itself but there is no doubt that the Arctic ice shelf and the Antarctic ice melting away is not a good thing.

Also these news report in the last two days:
In northern Greenland, a part of the Arctic that had seemed immune from global warming, new satellite images show a growing giant crack and a 28.5sqkm chunk of ice breaking off a glacier.

Two of Greenland's largest glaciers lost more ice to global warming over the past month, US researchers said today. Glaciologists at the Byrd Polar Research Centre at Ohio State University observed the break-ups by monitoring daily NASA satellites images as well as time-lapse photography from cameras monitoring Greenland's glaciers.
And so it goes...

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