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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wildlife Climate Refugees

The Philippines has been feeling the gradual impact of global warming. We have been observing some climate changes in the past few years. In fact, it is the first time that I have experienced a storm hitting us during summertime. Storms have been noticeably strong these recent years with sea surges along coastal areas that affect helpless residents.

A news story from Miami Herald by Robert S. Boyd says that an international team of 46 scientists from 10 countries has released a report concerning the temperature in the Arctic. The team says that the Arctic’s temperature last fall has hit an all time high, which is more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit or 5 degrees Centigrade above normal and has remained as high this year. In fact, Jackie Richter-Menge, a climate expert at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H, and editor of the latest annual Arctic Report Card has said that the year 2007 was the warmest year on record in the Arctic.

According to the Arctic Report Card, Arctic temperatures naturally peak in October and November, after sea ice shrinks during the summer. The shrinkage lets more of the sun's ray heat the ocean rather than reflecting it back into space. As a result, the ocean is warming and causing global sea levels to rise even faster than predicted. The report further states that the summer of 2007 has set a record low for sea ice in the Arctic, threatening reindeer, walruses and polar bears and opening shipping lanes above the Arctic Circle.

Interestingly, the migration of polar bears from the Arctic has been a popular tourist attraction in Churchill- the town, which remains as Canada’s only Arctic seaport, sitting on the southwest shores of the vast Hudson Bay. As the ice, reforms in the bay, large numbers of polar bears, having gone without food during the summer months, emerge from their dens and venture offshore in search of seals.

However, recent polar bear activities seem to cause some alarm to scientists. In July of 2006, photographer Mitsuaki Iwago has caught with his Olympus E-system digital SLR camera, polar bears swimming off as he was sailing the Wager Bay in Northern Canada. Experts suspect that the polar bears were probably feeling the impact of global warming in the Arctic and were migrating to nearby glaciers where ice was still thick. Local residents in the area had noticed that sea ice had been melting unusually in the area that year and the previous year. Once ice broke up, polar bears could no longer hunt for seals and might starve to death.

1001 Science Questions Answered

Reader’s Digest October Edition,

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