I’m VERY skeptical of National Wildlife Federation’s claim that these polar bears dug into the soil to cool down. NWF claims that these particular bears were over heated and needed to cool down their body temperatures. Cute, but I don’t believe it for a second! Here’s the description of these pics from the the NWF’s bleeding-heart blog post:
The heat-stressed polar bears were digging holes in the dirt, trying to stay cool by lying on the permafrost below. The photos were taken by Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. He just returned from the Hudson Bay in Canada, where he and scientists observed the polar bears. His polar bear photos are available for sharing (credit the National Wildlife Federation).
Wrong. This is exactlyhow polar bears sleep. They dig shallow holes to curl up in, hold their backs against the wind, and nap for about 8 hours.
Misleading blog posts like the above contribute to science illiteracy. The NWF should show 1) that these particular bears don’t normally sleep like this. After all, this is how polar bears sleep - explain why are these bears an exception. 2) Show the baseline data that these particular bears were in fact heat stressed. These guys look fat and healthy. 3) Show that these bears actually cooled off after their nap. In the least, show a correlation between heat stress and cooling off vis a vis digging a hole. And 4) show where and how the bears learned this behavior. After all, temperatures do swing in the Arctic. Polar bears are prepared for these normal swings.
I just see polar bears doing their normal sleepy time. And that these photos were taking from a helicopter on a long-lens, which tells me the bears weren’t actually baselined nor studied.
I’ve left a note for the blog post’s author to clarify and will post an update.
The Arctic sea ice has been surprising scientists for the last six years. It set a new record for melting back during the International Polar Year in 2007.
Last year it beat that record, but at the same time the seasonal ice in the Bering Sea has been increasing – also to a record last winter. Whatever is driving these changes is also beginning to affect the vegetation on land.
Almost no one in America has heard of the Alaskan village of Kivalina. It clings to a narrow spit of sand on the edge of the Bering Sea, far too small to feature on maps of Alaska, never mind the United States.
Which is perhaps just as well, because within a decade Kivalina is likely to be under water. Gone, forever. Remembered - if at all - as the birthplace of America’s first climate change refugees.
Four hundred indigenous Inuit people currently live in Kivalina’s collection of single-storey cabins. Their livelihoods depend on hunting and fishing.
The sea has sustained them for countless generations but in the last two decades the dramatic retreat of the Arctic ice has left them desperately vulnerable to coastal erosion. No longer does thick ice protect their shoreline from the destructive power of autumn and winter storms. Kivalina’s spit of sand has been dramatically narrowed.
I have a few posts on Kivalina. The villagers tried - and lost - several times to sue oil companies and the federal government.
Science struggled to explain fully why an ice age occurs every 100,000 years. As researchers now demonstrate based on a computer simulation, not only do variations in insolation play a key role, but also the mutual influence of glaciated continents and climate.
Last year was among the 10 warmest years on record – ranking eighth or ninth depending on the data set, according to a report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The year 2012 also saw record greenhouse gas emissions, with concentrations of carbon dioxide and other warming gasses reaching a global average of 392.7 parts per million for the year.
"The findings are striking," Kathryn Sullivan, Noaa’s acting administrator, said on a conference call. "Our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place."
The scientists were reluctant to point directly to the cause of the striking changes in the climate. But the annual reports are typically used by the federal government to prepare for the future, and in June president Barack Obama used his climate address to direct government agencies to begin planning for decades of warming atmosphere and rising seas.
The biggest changes in the climate in 2012 were in the Arctic and in Greenland, said the report, which is an annual exercise by a team of American and British scientists. The Arctic warmed at about twice the rate of lower latitudes, the report found. By June 2012, snow cover had fallen to its lowest levels since the record began. By September 2012, sea-ice cover had retreated to its lowest levels since the beginning of satellite records, falling to 1.32 million square miles.
The Danish Meteorological Institute is reporting that on Tuesday, July 30, the mercury rose to 25.9 C (78.6 F) at a station in Greenland, the highest temperature measured in the Arctic country since records began in 1958
Climate change and arctic research from the Stockholm Resilience Center.
Changes in the Arctic will affect ecosystems, communities, and industrial infrastructure
The Arctic is in the spotlight like never before. Scientists and environmentalists watch it as a bellwether of global climate change, while nations and corporations seek to exploit the region’s oil, gas and mineral reserves, and new shipping routes. Yet most discussions of the Arctic fail to consider how changes in climate, ecosystems, economics, and society interact.
The Arctic Resilience Report (ARR), led by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)and the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), set out to fill that gap. What it found is that the combination of multiple, dramatic changes is pushing social-ecological systems to their limits.
Be prepared for surprises "The Arctic is changing so fast and in so many interacting ways that it affects the very fabric of ecosystems and societies," says Annika E. Nilsson, senior research fellow at SEI and scientific coordinator of the first phase of the ARR.
"We have to be prepared for surprises, and we need to increase the capacity to adapt and to grapple with conflicting priorities."
"When people talk about global change, they often assume that it will happen fairly steadily, and that people and ecosystems will be able to make step-by-step adjustments over time, but we document a growing body of research that shows this is far from always the case," says Sarah Cornell, lead author of the ARR’s thresholds analysis and coordinator of the Planetary Boundaries research initiative at SRC.
Learn more about the Arctic Resilience Report and download the Interim Report from the Arctic Council website.
At the heart of the White House’s new Arctic strategy is an elementary but devastating contradiction between what President Obama, in the document’s preamble, describes as seeking “to make the most of the emerging economic opportunities in the region” due to the rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice, and recognising “the need to protect and conserve this unique, valuable, and changing environment.”
Despite repeated references to “preservation” and “conservation”, the strategy fails to outline any specific steps that would be explored to mitigate or prevent the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice due to intensifying global warming. Instead, the document from the outset aims to:
"… position the United States to respond effectively to challenges and emerging opportunities arising from significant increases in Arctic activity due to the diminishment of sea ice and the emergence of a new Arctic environment."
In other words, far from being designed to prevent catastrophe, the success of the new strategy is premised precisely on the disappearance of the Arctic summer sea ice.