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article imagePolar bears starving, drowning and resorting to cannibalism as Artic ice melts

By Chris V. Thangham     Sep 24, 2008 in Environment
With the Arctic ice receding, polar bears are starving, drowning, and even resorting to cannibalism as a result of the lack of access to their normal food sources.
Researchers say bears and other animals are struggling with the loss of Arctic ice, adding it will impact other parts of the world by affecting storm systems, storm tracks and crops.
Currently, researchers are analyzing the Arctic ice and finding the data very chilling. Walt Meier, a research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado told CNN:
"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."
Arctic ice thickens and spreads during autumn and winter seasons, and shrinks in the spring and summer. But this past summer, the Arctic ice dwindled to its second lowest level in 50 years of monitoring. The Arctic is losing its ice cover at a rate of 10 per cent per decade, and experts believe there will eventually be a time where ice will completely melt in the summer.
Polar bear
Polar bear
Photo by Mo Morgan
Problems as a result of this trend are not isolated in the Arctic, either; Arctic ice helps regulate and temper the climate in many other parts of the world. The sheets of ice reflect solar radiation and keep the Earth cool. With the loss of ice, water absorbs heat and will make the planet warmer. It may also affect rain in other parts of the world, including less rain in the Western United States and more rain in Europe.
Meier told CNN:
"That warming is going to spread to the lower latitudes, to the United States, and it's going to affect storm systems and storm tracks, the jet stream; that's going to affect crops and all sorts of things."
About 30 years ago, there were seven million square kilometers (2.5 million miles) of ice at the end of Arctic summer, whereas now the ice cover has dropped 40 per cent.
The polar bears are the biggest sufferers in this ice loss; they live entirely on Arctic ice and are dependent on it. With the loss of ice, bears are left starving, some drown, and some were found to be resorting to cannibalism because of a lack of other natural food sources. Scientists have actually found starving Arctic polar bears attacking and feeding on one another. In one incident in 2004, a male bear broke into a female’s den and killed her.
Polar bear
Polar bear
Photo by ucumari
As a result of the Arctic ice loss, the U.S. Department of Interior has listed the polar bear as “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act.
Meier warned about the impending loss of Arctic ice in the next five years:
"The Arctic is kind of the early warning system of the climate...It is the canary in the coal mine, and the canary is definitely in trouble.”
In related news, some people want to use the Arctic as a route for shipping, while others want to drill for oil.
More about Polar bears, Cannibalism, Arctic