If the species known as mankind won’t do anything to deal with rapid climate change in Alaska, maybe another species will incite action. It is the polar bear, (Ursus Maritimus), also called the white bear, sea bear, ice bear, or great white northern bear found throughout the Arctic region.
In the Arctic, where ice is melting faster than ever before, the polar bear is now traveling hundreds of miles inland to find food.
According to climatologists, Alaska is now the leading barometer in the climate change world.
Scientists are finding that a rapid warming trend is responsible for sea ice melting at a remarkable rate, leaving polar bears without enough ice cover to hunt for seals.
Last week, a trapper in the small hamlet of Arctic Village in Alaska, was just as surprised as the polar bear he saw, when the two accidentally met in the wilderness. Arctic Village, population 192, is located about 100 miles inland from the shores of the Beaufort Sea, the bear’s natural habitat. To defend himself, the trapper shot the bear. In 2008, another wandering polar bear was encountered in the village of Fort Yukon, also more than 100 miles inland.
The polar bear travels long distances over vast desolate expanses, generally on drifting ocean ice floes, searching for seals, its primary prey. Except for one subspecies of grizzly bear, the polar bear is the largest and most powerful carnivore on land. It has no natural predators and knows no fear of humans, making it extremely dangerous.
Other sea mammals being impacted are seals and walruses.
Seals, walrus, and polar bears need large areas of frozen sea ice to live a normal productive life. When Arctic ice melts, the animals have to change their habitat or starve.
Polar bears are not land animals and have survived in the frozen ice-covered Arctic polar-regions for thousands of years.
The changes in the weather are not only affecting wildlife, but humans are also impacted. Anchorage and surrounding cities have been seeing unusually warm weather with temperatures in the 38-40-degree range while residents in the northeast parts of the United States are being impacted by bitterly cold below zero weather.
Some cities in upper New York have already experienced dangerous minus 20 to minus 70 degrees cold for days on end. Boston saw temperatures at minus 22F; Buffalo, New York at minus 30F; Binghamton, New York at minus 41F; Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania at minus 46F; and Mount Washington, New Hampshire at minus 70F.
This week, more extreme cold temperatures are expected in the region and warnings have been issued, according to the National Weather Service. Millions of people will be impacted.
Meanwhile, weather forecasters say Anchorage will continue to see warm days with temperatures leveling off in the mid-20s to high 30s. Freezing rain is also expected.
Just last year, some residents of Anchorage in South-central Alaska were seeing lawns staying green most of the winter. This year, however, there is more snow cover.
Highway patrol has also warned residents about the danger of large rocks rolling down the mountain sides on the Seward Highway, just a few miles from Anchorage. There have been two events in two days. One driver narrowly missed death when he was seriously injured in one of them. In normal times, the high mountains are covered with ice and snow and residents routinely travel safely and comfortably. Wet, and unusually rainy weather may have played a role.
Latest weather maps indicate that an Arctic blast has been driving extreme cold from northern Canada through parts of Michigan, Illinois, the Ohio valley and eastward to northern New York, Washington D.C., and the New England states. Extreme snowfall and blizzards have also been reported. Winter cold kills more than twice as many Americans as does summer heat, according to a report released by the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One Alaska Native elder said recently that wearing furs, and lots of them, could save your life in those conditions. “That’s what we do,” he said.
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