Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: The Polar Bear Question (for the Week of Jan. 6, 2008)

January 9, 2008

Q. Dear Twig: The polar bears, remember? If the Arctic ice cap melts and shrinks, what will that do to them?

A.: Bad things, it would seem. If the Arctic Ocean ends up losing the ice that it normally has in the summer (and it normally does have ice in summer, though less than it has in winter), "polar bears are unlikely to survive as a species,"says a massive scientific report called the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. (We talked about it last week. See http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~news/story.php?id=4432.)

Polar bears, which live in the wild only in the Arctic, need sea ice in summer to travel and hunt on. Without it, says a government agency called the U.S. Geological Survey, some two-thirds of the polar bears on the planet could die off in the next 50 years.

Unfortunately, unless the warming and the melting slow down, the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summers as early as 2012. So says a NASA scientist.

The PBs would find that uncool.

Next: Is other Arctic life at risk, too?

Pagophilically,

Twig

P.S. "Pagophilic" means ice-loving. Scientists call polar bears pagophilic. Some seals are, too.

Notes: Sources included the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, http://www.acia.uaf.edu/; the U.S. Geological Survey, http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1773 ; and a Dec. 12, 2007, National Geographic News article by Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press that quotes NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally (the "by 2012" estimate), http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/12/071212-AP-arctic-melt.html.

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," published by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — specifically, by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the College — is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. It typically measures at a 4th-grade reading level. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, knebusch.1@osu.edu, (330) 263-3776. Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.

Author(s): 
Kurt Knebusch