Tag Archives: climate

60% of Adélie Penguins Could Disappear This Century

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New research shows that climate change may vastly devastate Adélie penguin colonies by 2099. Nearly two-thirds of the penguins, which live only in Antarctica, could be gone within this century due to warming sea surfaces not conducive for penguin chicks. In a Scientific Reports study, researchers warned that the excessive warmth linked with climate change is extremely harmful to the species. “It is only in recent decades that we know Adélie penguins population declines are associated with warming, which suggests that many regions of Antarctica have warmed too much and that further warming is no longer positive for the species,” lead author Dr. Megan Cimino said.

Adélie penguin colonies are centralized across the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), among the fastest-warming places on Earth, and populations have already shown declines in response. More than any other region, WAP has faced warmer than normal sea surface temperature in recent years, a condition known as “novel climate”. According to Cimino, penguin numbers have decreased by around 80% since significantly higher temperatures were noted. “These two things seem to be happening in the WAP at a higher rate than in other areas during the same time period,” Cimino noted.

Climate projections reveal that this region will continue to experience increasingly frequent years of novel climate this century, presenting a threat that could ravage already-fragile penguin populations. Researchers examined a wide range of global climate models and satellite data, as penguin colonies can now be seen and studied from space. Based on their findings, 30% of current Adélie penguins could disappear by 2060, and 60% could be gone by 2099.

Intriguingly, researchers found that in areas where climate change is slow, Adélie numbers are “steady or increasing”, further strengthening the link between climate change and Adélie decline. Scientists hope that these slow-to-warm spots will become refugia, or places for once widespread but now isolated animal populations to survive, even if that survival remains tenuous. East Antarctic peninsula Cape Adare, is one such spot where climate changes have been less extreme. Said Cimino, “The Cape Adare region of the Ross Sea is home to the earliest known penguin occupation and has the largest known Adélie penguin rookery in the world. Though the climate there is expected to warm a bit, it looks like it could be a refugium in the future, and if you look back over geologic time it was likely one in the past.”

Extrapolating on current climate change patterns, these scientists predicted surviving Antarctic penguins will concentrate in southern Antarctica over the next century.

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Source: Worley, Will. “Climate change ‘to devastate penguin populations in Antarctica by up to 60 per cent by the end of the century’.” Independent. 29 June 2016

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GOOD NEWS, OUR OZONE LAYER IS ON THE MEND!

The hole in our ozone layer over Antarctica caused major concern for the future of our planet when it was first discovered in 1984. This discovery lead to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a treaty signed by almost every nation that focused on eliminating the use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) chemicals in an attempt to save the planet’s protective layer.

Today, over three decades after the discovery of the shrinking ozone layer, we are seeing improvements to the ozone layer proving the success of the treaty. Although these improvements are minimal considering the 1.5 million square miles of ozone that shrunk between 2000 and 2015, the hopes of saving our planet are looking more like possibilities.

EnvironmentTypical_Crowded_Beachalists and scientists from around the world were majorly concerned with the effects that the shrinking ozone could have on our planet. The ozone layer, high in the stratosphere, protects Earth’s life from absorbing the Sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. With the depletion of ozone, mostly caused by the release of CFCs and other chemicals from refrigerants and propellants, the UV radiation was predicted to cause major health issues to humans. Skin cancer, cataracts, and eye damage were just some of the health concerns.

NASA analyzed the situation in 2009 and simulated the result of a continuously shrinking ozone layer had the Montreal Protocol not been signed. Their simulation showed that by mid-century, the ozone layer would be completely depleted from Earth, and at noon on a summer day the UV index would be so damaging that visible sunburn could be seen on skin within just 10 minutes.

Thankfully, this is no longer a concern. Improvements to the ozone layer are just one example of the success from society’s joint efforts and mutual concerns to directly target an issue. The Montreal Protocol’s accomplishments should engage society to take a harder look at how the issue of Global Warming can best be solved. While the shrinking ozone layer triggered a ban to the use of CFCs, the focus for Global Warming needs to be on the release of carbon into the atmosphere from coal, gas, and oil burning. This shows the success of collective efforts and treaties like the Montreal Protocol to generate change and give us all hope of living in a cleaner and healthier planet.

Source: “Ozone Hole Shows Signs of Shrinking, Scientists Say.” Henry Fountain. NY Times. June 30, 2016.

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