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Polar bears drowning due to melting arctic ice

Scientists finally have proof that polar bears are drowning due to melting arctic sea ice. This summer researchers discovered polar bears swimming up to 60 miles from shore in search of pack ice and food. Polar bears live in hunt on floating sea ice near shore where seals provide the only local food source. While polar bears are excellent swimmers, they seem to be drowning in numbers, lost in the Arctic Ocean. After one storm this summer, four dead polar bears were found floating in a small patch of sea to the north of Alaska. Previous studies have concluded that polar bears could be forced to extinction by the end of the century.

Recent studies have documented a sharp increase in the number of polar bears forced into the water by melting sea ice. One effect of continuing global climate chance is a thinning of arctic sea ice although other results are not as well understood. This retreat of the ice has been very well documented. With temperatures seemingly getting ever warmer, this trend is expected to increase and the forecast looks dire for many arctic ecosystems.

Not all of the effects of this ice melt will be ecological. Common thought has always dictated that melting arctic ice would not increase sea levels since the ice was already floating in the sea. However, some scientific evidence argues that the melting sea ice will still lead to increase of sea level. This would be due to an expansion of the melted water as it warms, and due to the difference in density between ice and sea water. As with any change, some people are seeking opportunity out of this potential environmental disaster. While melting ice and rising sea levels may be contributing to the erosion of Louisiana at a rate of a football field every 35 minutes, it also could be opening shipping lanes in the arctic. Of course with 2005 being the costliest year on record for natural disasters, New Orleans will really need those new levees.
0:Credit: Kennan Ward/Corbis

Posted by Bryan Woods | Permalink