Global Warming

Arctic Report Card 2019: Extreme Ice Loss, Dying Species as Global Warming Worsens

When dead salmon wash ashore along the coast of the Bering Sea, the problem is much bigger than dead fish. It’s a sign of deeper trouble cascading through the Arctic’s ecosystems.

It’s been happening more and more the last few years—fish, dead or dying, rolling in with the tide, said Mellisa Johnson, executive director of the Bering Sea Elders Group. “The seals, they don’t want to eat those types of fish. They know they’re unhealthy for consumption. So then they don’t have enough fat reserves to last them.”

As the Arctic warms roughly twice as fast as the rest of the planet, the effects are reverberating far beyond any single species. Massive systems—from the sea ice and permafrost to the jet stream—are beginning to behave in unexpected ways.

The changes are impacting species, fishing industries and local communities, including the people who have long called Bering Sea communities home. Indigenous hunters are working harder than ever to find the food they have long relied on, and they’re sometimes making macabre discoveries: sea birds dying en masse, nets filled with fish that have rarely been seen in those areas.

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