Invasive species have been a problem for quite some time. Over the years, we have grappled with – among other things – invasive plants from Japan, zebra mussels from eastern Europe, and Asian fungus that kills off ash trees in our forests.
On several occasions, we have talked about the enormous amount of plastic that litters the world’s oceans. Bits of bottles, bags, toys, fishing nets and other objects collect in gyres, or so-called garbage patches, which have grown and grown over the decades.
When we think of global climate change, what comes to mind? Rising seas? Melting glaciers? Shrinking sea ice? How about diminishing ocean oxygen levels?
Unprecedented things have been happening with the weather up in the Arctic in recent times. In fact, during the past year, the climate in the Arctic has at times bordered on the absurd.
2016 was the hottest year on record and saw many extreme weather events. How much of what happened resulted from climate change has yet to be assessed. However, the analysis of 2015 – which was the hottest year on record up until last year – has been presented in a special publication by the American Meteorological Society.
Climate change is posing a major threat to polar bear survival. The polar bear, whose native range lies largely within the Arctic Circle, depends on sea ice for nearly all of its life cycle functions. And rising temperatures are causing that sea ice to disappear.
This time of the year, sea ice in the Arctic is on the rise as winter sets in. A combination of unusually high air temperatures and a warmer than normal ocean led to a record low for Arctic sea ice extent in November. In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctic sea ice extent also hit a record low for the month.
Hundreds of thousands of reindeer roam Russia’s Yamal Peninsula, which is located in northwestern Siberia, and are herded by the indigenous Nenets people, reportedly among the Arctic’s last truly nomadic reindeer herders. Reindeer provide these indigenous people with transportation, food, clothes, and even tools made from their bones. Reindeer are well suited for the freezing temperatures and thick snow of this climate. But they are not well suited for climate change.
Santa Claus may have to change out of that heavy red suit this Christmas. The North Pole, site of his fabled workshop, is seeing historically high temperatures this year. In fact, it is 36 degrees Fahrenheit higher than it has been in past decades. This is a staggering number.
The Arctic used to be pretty much a pristine wilderness populated only by fairly small numbers of indigenous residents living environmentally benign lifestyles. The disruptive elements of modern civilization were not much of a factor. Because of the changing climate, this is no longer true.
Two years ago, NASA reported that the sea ice surrounding Antarctica reached a new record high extent, surpassing levels mapped since the late 1970s. This seemed to be quite contrary to the global warming trend that is leading to the melting of the Arctic and glaciers worldwide. And in fact, it does seem rather puzzling.
The top of the world is turning from white to blue in the summer. The ice that has long covered the north polar seas is melting away.
The Northwest Passage is a sea route connecting the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Ocean, going along the northern coast of North America via waterways through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.