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Polar Bears resort to cannibalism as Arctice ice shrinks

Marsha Walton details recent scientific findings on melting Arctic sea ice and the affect that the loss of such ice is having on Polar Bears.

  • Arctic Sea Ice levels are 30% below normal
  • Sea ice melt is a disaster for polar bears: as the ice melts, they are starving, drowning, and even resorting to cannibalism because they cannot access their usual food sources
  • 30 years ago, 7 million square km of ice would be left at the end of the Arctic summer - an area the size of the lower 48 United States. Today we've lost sea ice east of the Mississippi River and even beyond.
  • Dissapearance of ice cover in the Arctic can influence winds and preciptation on other continents, possibly leading to less rain in the western United States and more in Europe.

Polar bears resort to cannibalism as Arctic ice shrinks
By Marsha Walton
September 23, 2008

Summer is over in the northern hemisphere, but it's been another chilling season for researchers who study Arctic sea ice.

"It's definitely a bad report. We did pick up little bit from last year, but this is over 30 percent below what used to be normal," said Walt Meier, a research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

This past summer, the Arctic sea ice dwindled to its second lowest level. Arctic sea ice is usually 1 to 3 meters, or as much as 9 feet thick. It grows during autumn and winter and shrinks in the spring and summer.

Scientists have monitored sea ice conditions for about 50 years with the help of satellites. Changes in the past decade have been alarming to climate researchers and oceanographers.

"It is the second lowest on record. ... If anything, it is reinforcing the long-term trend. We are still losing the ice cover at a rate of 10 percent per decade now, and that is quite an increase from five years ago," Meier said. "We are still heading toward an ice cover that is going to melt completely in the summertime in the Arctic."

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