Between 10,000 and 20,000 walruses have come ashore in northwest Alaska because the sea ice they usually lie on has melted.
The lumbering marine mammals normally spend their summers resting on the ice as it floats north, making periodic dives to the ocean floor to forage for food. But this year a lack of ice in the eastern Chukchi Sea has driven thousands of walruses to congregate on land instead.
40 Million Pounds Of Marine Mammal On Land
Here’s how the Alaska Dispatch describes the scene: Look to the north from a seaside street in the small village of Point Lay, Alaska and you’ll witness a phenomenon that has locals and scientists alike awestruck: A few miles down the coastline, tens of thousands of walruses are jammed together in a tight beach-bound pod to catch a little R&R from their daily routine.
This is not a small group — we’re talking in the neighborhood of 40 million collective pounds of massive marine mammal.
The Ice Is Melting
USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) scientists believe this is due to the increasing lack of sea ice, as Climate Progress explains. They report that this massive move to shore by walruses is unusual in the United States, although a smaller movement has happened at least twice before, in 2007 and 2009, when Arctic sea ice also was at or near record low levels.
These scientists traveled to Point Lay earlier this month to tag some of the walruses in order to track and study their movement. The researchers are particularly interested in how much more swimming the land-bound walruses, most of which are females, will have to do to find food and how that extra effort will affect their health. And they are worried about how young walruses — which rely on a mother’s care for two years and which nurse for the first six to seven months of life — will fare.
The Earth Is Heating Up
This is bad news for walruses, and it’s bad news for humans. Across our globe, June 2010 was the hottest June since records began; July 2010 was the second hottest July ever recorded; Pakistan has just experienced both extreme heat and catastrophic floods; and the list goes on.
While none of these events can be proven to be directly linked to global warming, they are consistent with predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that in a warming world, we will see extreme weather events more frequently and with more intensity.
Time To Take Action
Naysayers still exist, but as Nancy Roberts reported here recently, even the contrarian Bjorn Lomborg, who has been one of the biggest climate change skeptics, is now saying that the threat of global warming is severe, and that we must take action.
But why are our politicians not paying attention?