The Arctic’s summer sea ice may already have hit a near-record low extent, putting pressure on the region’s wildlife.
According to figures from the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, the ice hit a low of just over four million square kilometres on September 11th, the second lowest on the satellite record, and well below the average. Although ice extent now appears to be edging back up, the official low has not yet been called. The low occurs as a new paper shows that all 19 of the world’s polar bear subpopulations are facing trends of declining ice coverage.
“It is difficult to predict how Arctic ecosystems will respond to decreasing sea ice extent, but we are seeing more species moving in to take advantage of warming Arctic waters, and specialized Arctic species such as polar bears showing signs of stress in some regions,” says Melanie Lancaster of WWF’s Arctic Programme. “Conservation action to preserve the Arctic is urgently needed to keep up with these rapid changes”.
The Arctic is particularly vulnerable to extreme heat – the region is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. Globally, the past 16 months have each broken consecutive heat records, with July and August 2016 tied as the hottest months ever recorded, and 2016 may go down as the hottest year ever recorded.
The continued warming trend turns up the heat on national governments to speed up ratification of the Paris agreement on tackling climate change. To enter into force, the agreement must be ratified by at least 55 countries representing at least 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. WWF believes urgent and accelerated implementation of the Paris deal is necessary in order to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Next week, a United Nations special event in New York is aimed at securing the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement.