What’s it like living in Arviat near the Arctic Circle? The town of 2,500 – half are under the age of 19- coexists with polar bears roaming the streets and coast of the Hudson Bay. Leo Ikhakik helps keep the townspeople safe from polar bears by patrolling the area at night on his snowmobile. “It’s very scary to be out during the polar bear season”, says Leo’s daughter Lorraine, mother of six children. As global warming reduces the amount and duration of Arctic sea ice, the main hunting ground for the bears, the towns along the Hudson Bay like Arviat and Churchill see more year-round numbers of polar bears.
Barrow Observatory, an Arctic Circle research station run by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is normally a very cold place with snow lasting well into the summer months. This year is different according to researchers as snow has begun to melt a good month prior to the normal thaw time. It appears the dynamic Arctic summer is starting earlier in the far north.
The observatory, 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle, is seeing the earliest snow melt in nearly 80 years. David Douglas, a U. S. Geological Survey research biologist stated the area looks like “June or early July right now.” May 13 marked the beginning of the snow melting this year.
The snow melt at Barrow Observatory follows one of the warmest Alaska winters on record. Temperatures were over 11 degrees above average according to NOAA. Douglas emphasizes the melting shows how the Arctic’s ice coverage has become quite fragile and forecasts record low sea ice for in the Arctic for 2016.
“Polar bears are having to make their decisions about how to move and where to go on thinner ice pack that’s mostly first-year ice,” Douglas said.
These ominous forecasts have been surfacing for years and now we are seeing harbingers of these prophesies in physical evidence all over the world and especially in the high Arctic.
This pretty cool photo taken at the 82nd parallel just at the edge of the ice pack in the Arctic Circle. Photographer Josh Anon was in the right spot to catch the sun’s angle in the polar bear’s breath. The bear was one of a group holding court over a recent seal kill as Anon snapped the shot from a small boat. The polar bears lingered through the night and the group was able to spend some more time capturing their images in the early morning light.
Deep beyond the rim of the Arctic Circle on a Norwegian archipelago the Svalbard Global Seed Vault stands rimmed in hoar frost and surrounded by permafrost. The vault, which holds roughly 860,000 and 4,000 plant species seeds from nearly every country on Earth, is a safeguard against climate change and major planet transformations. Even if Earth lost electrical power, the seeds stored within the vault could survive two centuries minimum.
The fact the vault needed to be opened by The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (or ICARDA) is concerning. Is global warming affecting how our reserve seed inventory is managed? The center relocated from Syria to Beirut in 2012 due to conflict in the region. They now have requested 130 boxes of the originally stored 325 boxes of seeds stored in the vault. ICARDA needed these samples as part of its ongoing role of growing seeds and distributing them throughout the world to various nations.
ICARDA’s mission partly focuses on researching and cultivating plants that are able to adapt to shifting climate patterns most importantly in dry areas of Africa, Australia and the Middle East. Over 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface is classified under dry regions and 2.5 billion people reside in these areas. The Syrian conflict interrupted the center’s critical and important work.
Many of the world’s first grains and cereals are believed to have derived from the Levant in Syria widely considered a cradle of civilization now besieged by intense conflict and mass exodus.