Blog Tags: Melting Sea Ice
We’re excited to be a partner of “To the Arctic,” a new IMAX film by MacGillivray Freeman coming out April 20.
The film, narrated by Meryl Streep, follows a mother polar bear and her two seven-month-old cubs as they navigate the changing Arctic wilderness they call home. Extraordinary footage brings you up close and personal with this family’s struggle to survive.
Check out the trailer, share it and spread the word!
The Arctic’s Northeast Passage is home to walruses, beluga whales, narwhals, and many other marine animals, most of whom have probably never seen an oil tanker or shipping vessel. Unfortunately, thanks to global climate change, that could soon change.
As the planet continues to warm, the coveted Northeast Passage has become ice-free and thus open to cargo ships, oil drillers, and fishing vessels for the first time.
There’s huge incentive for commerce and industry to use the Northeast Passage. The New York Times writes that the opening of the Passage shortens the travel time and reduces costs for shipping between Northern Europe and Asian markets. Companies like Exxon Mobil are attracted to the potential of oil and minerals in the Arctic seabed. And the elusive Arctic “Donut Hole,” a patch of international and unregulated waters in the center of the Ocean, is full of valuable fish including overfished Atlantic cod stocks.
Offshore drilling, increased shipping traffic, and fishing vessels in the Northeast Passage threatens one of the great patches of marine wilderness in the world. Drilling in the Arctic could mean a spill in a place as remote as Northern Russia, which would make the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup look like a cinch, primarily because cleanup mechanisms such as booms don’t work properly in icy waters.
We’ve been campaigning against offshore oil drilling to protect vulnerable Arctic habitats. We'll continue working with local native communities to ensure that future generations will see a healthy and vibrant Arctic. You can help by supporting our work to fight oil drilling in the Arctic.
The latest sea ice data are out, and they aren't pretty. Here’s the latest:
- Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center believe that Arctic sea ice reached its smallest extent for this year on September 9, at 4.33 million square kilometers. If this is the case, the only year since 1979 with less ice was 2007, but they note that if wind conditions change, the area covered by ice may still shrink.
- The University of Washington’s Polar Science Center Arctic ice estimates, which measure volume of ice rather than area, find that this year’s minimum extent is the smallest on record (since 1979), with August sea ice volume at less than half the recorded average.
- NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center has announced that globally this August was the eighth hottest since 1880—and when measuring only land temperatures, August 2011 was the second hottest on record.
The sea ice data in particular are drawing a lot of attention because sea ice maintenance affects weather patterns around the globe, melting ice contributes to warmer oceans and rising sea levels, and unusual ice patterns can wreak havoc on the lives of native humans and animals, particularly polar bears, which can drown, and walruses, which can starve.
Editor’s note: Guest blogger Emily Goldstein was a finalist in Oceana’s first annual Ocean Heroes contest in 2009 for her work to convince thousands of people and dozens of large companies to reduce their energy use, saving 16 million pounds of CO2.
Polar bears stand for everything that is wild and free, ruling over the Arctic as the creature we all associate with the North Pole. They are the apex predators in the Arctic, admired for their power and majesty. But the polar bear has recently become well-known for another, more deadly reason: they have become victims of climate change. Their world of ice is melting away, threatening their very existence.
In November I traveled to a remote town in northern Canada to talk with scientists about the polar bear’s perilous situation. Churchill is a village near the Hudson Bay, where ice first begins to form each year. This was my third visit there, but each time I go I feel even more privileged to be able to experience the world of the bears. The first time I looked into the eyes of a polar bear, I knew that I had to do something to save these amazing creatures from extinction.
As DailyKos and the New York Times reported yesterday, melting sea ice has forced more than 10,000 walruses ashore in the Alaskan Arctic. Normally they rest on ice floes in the summer, periodically diving for food.
And this isn’t the first time. In fact, this is the third time in the last four years that the walruses have alarmingly turned into landlubbers.
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