Starving Polar Bears Turning to Cannibalism
Where Did My Ice Go?
Summer's over, and arctic researchers have another bad report from up North: The Arctic sea ice dwindled to its second lowest level. We are still losing ice at a rate of 10% per decade, quite an increase from 5 years ago. We are still heading toward an ice cover that is going to melt completely in the summertime in the Arctic.
It is so bad that some polar bears are even resorting to cannibalism.
"[Polar bears] are dependent on the Arctic sea ice for all of their essential behaviors, and as the ice melts and global warming transforms the Arctic, polar bears are starving, drowning, even resorting to cannibalism because they don't have access to their usual food sources," said Kassie Siegel, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Scientists have noticed increasing reports of starving Arctic polar bears attacking and feeding on one another in recent years. In one documented 2004 incident in northern Alaska, a male bear broke into a female's den and killed her.
How Much Ice Are We Talking About?
Less than three decades ago, there would be 7 million square kilometers (2.5 million square miles) of ice at the end of the summer. That's down about 40%.
Walt Meier, a research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado: "Seven million square kilometers roughly corresponds to an area of the lower 48 United States. So back in the early 1980s, the lower 48 states would be covered in sea ice in the summer. Now we've essentially lost sea ice east of the Mississippi River and even beyond. So that's a significant amount of area."
Arctic ice helps regulate and temper the climate in many other parts of the world. The less ice there is, the more dramatic the impact. Huge sheets of ice reflect solar radiation, keeping our planet cool. When that ice melts, huge expanses of darker, open ocean water absorb the heat instead, warming things up.
See also: Polar Bear Observed to Swim Continuously for 9 Days Over 426 Miles
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