The Arctic Circle
The Arctic is undergoing massive changes, and it’s taking polar bears down with it.
The Arctic has been heating up: even conservative estimates predict that over the next 100 years, temperatures will rise 5-9 degrees Farenheit on land and 13 degrees Farenheit over the water. Even now, ice sheets are disappearing altogether in summer, which is bad news for the polar bears who depend on it to keep from drowning. Sadly enough, polar bears’ numbers are expected to shrink 30 percent by 2050.
But it’s not just polar bears we have to worry about: warming initiates a snowball effect felt throughout the whole ecosystem. Melting permafrost means the (successful) growth of more low-lying shrubs, which will obscure low-growing lichens, ground willow, and cotton grass – all of which are favorite foods for caribou and other grazers. More low shrubs also mean fewer sedges and mosses for lemmings to eat, and fewer snow tunnels to burrow in. Fewer lemmings makes life harder for Arctic predators – like snowy owls and Arctic foxes – whose survival depends, partly, on hunting lemmings for food.
So visit - if you can – before the entire ecosystem starts to break apart at its seams.
Not an animal person – much less the type of person who’d take a vacation to the Arctic? There’s still a lot for you to worry about. Disappearing ice doesn’t just hurt wildlife; it also hurts us. Huge polar ice sheets traditionally reflect the sun’s energy so that water and earth don’t absorb it and heat up. When they start to melt, permafrost is exposed and starts to melt as well. Melting permafrost in the area releases more heat-trapping gases into our atmosphere – which perpetuates a vicious cycle of higher temperatures leading to more melting, and more melting leading to higher temperatures. That’s why people who would never dream of visiting the Arctic still need to worry about it: Rising sea levels, due to glacial melting, are going to threaten many of your favorite...