Photo by Steve from London.
According to the National Snow and Ice Center, last year, the Arctic Sea broke an all-time record high for the amount of ice that was recorded melting. While proving to be quite a positive experience for the numerous boats who were in need of gaining passage across the Northern America's without ice blockades, the polar bears and other arctic animals were none too happy about the situation. The polar bear population has already suffered quite a blow from the diminishing sections of their native ice habitat.
There are actually quite a few animals who rely on the frozen ice caps for survival, as the Christian Science Monitor highlights in the article, It's Not Just the Heat: Why Animals Suffer. The article points out that polar bear need that ice in order to successfully hunt for marine animals, especially the ringed seal. These seals travel to the arctic to give birth to their pups in ice caves each year, but if the ice and snow continues to melt at an alarming rate, these pups may one day be exposed from their caves before they are ready to be weaned, which could lead to their mass extinction, and subsequently the mass extinction of the polar bar.
Currently, the ice situation is heading along the same path as last year and it appears as if we may another record, or at least near record high. Some scientists are warning that at the current rate of ice melting, summers in the Arctic could be completely ice free by the year 2040. For this time of year, mid-September, the ice coverage is supposed to be around about 2.3 million square miles, but in the short span of the next ten years, the ice could shrink to just 770,000 square miles.
If you download Google Earth, you can watch an animated demonstration of Arctic ice depletion from either a 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day outlook. There are also numerous other demonstrations available on the NSIDC website to prove what some folks, such as the petroleum big wigs, would like to think is not an immediate threat.