Most polar bears could die out by 2050
Two-thirds of the world's polar bears will be killed off by 2050 — and the entire population gone from Alaska — because of thinning sea ice from global warming in the Arctic, government scientists forecast Friday.
Only in the northern Canadian Arctic islands and the west coast of Greenland are any of the world's 16,000 polar bears expected to survive through the end of the century, said the U.S. Geological Survey, which is the scientific arm of the Interior Department.
Florida airboats glide on thin Arctic ice
As climate change thins sea ice around the Arctic, making travel by snowmobile during the spring precarious even for practiced hunters, one solution may be to borrow technology from the swampy Everglades of Florida.
Arctic Kingdom Marine Expeditions is reporting success in using airboats to guide tours to the floe edge outside Pond Inlet this summer.
A study by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that the Arctic ice is melting faster than expected and will decline by 40 percent by 2050.
The estimate is based on a study of national and international computer models keeping the period 1979-1999 as a base. An earlier report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had found that sea loss was greater in the summer in Arctic Sea located north of Alaska, Canada and Asia.
The IPCC report had placed the blame on greenhouse gases and had said that unless these emissions were controlled, the Arctic Sea would almost disappear by the turn of the century.
In a year when the Arctic ice cap has shrunk to the lowest level ever recorded, a new analysis from Seattle scientists says global warming will accelerate future melting much more than previously expected.
About 40 percent of the floating ice that normally blankets the top of the world during the summer will be gone by 2050, says James Overland, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Earlier studies had predicted it would be nearly a century before that much ice vanished."This is a major change," Overland said. "This is actually moving the threshold up.
"If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said it wouldn't happen until 2070 or 2100," said Serreze, who was not involved in Overland's project.
Even a 40 percent loss of ice would be devastating to ice-dependent animals such as walruses and ringed seals, said Overland, who shared his data with federal officials considering an endangered-species listing for polar bears.
Gray whales will suffer if the ice-loving crustaceans they feed on disappear. But some commercially important fish species, like pollock and salmon, could thrive in warmer water — a possible boon for the Seattle-based fishing fleet that plies Alaska's Bering Sea. There are also hints, though, that the disappearance of ice would favor predators that undermine fisheries, Overland said.
Shipping will benefit if the Northwest Passage across the Canadian Arctic melts out each summer — as it did for the first time this year.
Of course that is why we are having the international race to declare sovereignty over the arctic because heck there is a silver lining to global warming after all.
"We think it's a great frontier ...." Fox says. "The belief is that about 25 percent of the world's remaining reserves are in the Arctic. And I think it's a major play for us."
Even the climate seemed to be cooperating with that major play. Polar ice retreated this summer from the spot where Shell plans to explore for oil.
Shell would hardly need its reinforced hulls, or rented Russian icebreakers.
The effects of burning fossil fuels today will extend long beyond the next couple of hundred years, possibly delaying the onset of Earth's next ice age, more properly called a glacial period, says researcher Toby Tyrrell of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.
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