“There is little doubt that polar bears are very susceptible as global climate change continues to drastically alter the landscape of the northern polar regions,” said Robert Rockwell, a research associate in the Museum’s Department of Ornithology. “But we’re finding that they might be more resilient than is commonly thought.”
Polar bears are listed as a threatened species under the United States Endangered Species Act and are classified as “vulnerable” with declining populations on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ Red List. Climate warming is reducing the availability of their ice habitat, especially in the spring when polar bears gain most of their annual fat reserves by consuming seal pups before coming ashore for the summer. The new work, led by Rockwell and Linda Gormezano, a postdoctoral researcher in the Museum’s Division of Vertebrate Zoology, examines how polar bears might compensate for energy deficits from decreasing seal-hunting opportunities.
As noted recently in The New York Times (3 May 2017), the melting of sea ice in the Arctic, due to climate change, will open up new shipping routes connecting Europe and North America with Asia. The Arctic is potentially a faster, more direct route between Asia and ports in Europe and eastern North America.
The amount of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean has declined sharply each decade since the 1980s, according to measurements taken each September when the ice is at its minimum. Older, thicker ice is disappearing as well. Scientists say global warming is largely responsible for the changes.
The changing conditions offer an opening to shipping companies. However, variations in ice conditions and costs could continue to discourage shipping companies from using these routes. While the loss of sea ice is distressing, it is important to recognize potential economic incentives in contemplating mitigation measures.
Source: J.K. Patel and H. Fountain, “As Arctic Ice Vanishes, New Shipping Routes” (New York Times, 3 May 2017)
Reyes had never been to Voeld before, and he didn’t think he’d
ever been this cold. There was cryo, of course, but he hadn’t really felt that.
There was also that one terrifying suit breach back in training, and that was an experience he never wanted
to repeat - but it wasn’t really comparable. The cold up here wasn’t sharp or
fleeting. It was dense. It was pervasive. It made his limbs feel heavy, like there
were icicles hanging from his sleeves. Still, it was a pleasant kind of cold.
It made his heart beat faster to make up the difference. He had a helmet on,
but his lips still felt a little numb.
Sara was barely visible through the haze of whirling snow, but she
was somewhere above him. If he squinted up the mountainside, he could see her
clinging to the slope. Slope was
putting it mildly, though. It looked like they were climbing up the side of a
How had she talked him into this?
She twisted around to wave at him - and Reyes’ heart lurched
up into his mouth when she wobbled on her perch. She caught herself, though,
and Reyes could hear her laughing through the comm in his helmet.
Sara gave an exaggerated shrug - and removed both hands from
the rock she’d been clutching. Reyes was sure his heart was going to give out
right here. Maybe he’d fall off the mountainside and finally find out what was
so great about a jump jet.
“No hands,” Sara said cheerily. She waved them both in the air - and if Reyes could have seen her face through her helmet, he’d have definitely found her grinning. “You doing okay down there?”
“Just fine,” he grumbled. He was trying not to
look down. He stretched for his next handhold, carefully checking its stability
before he hauled himself up higher. This wasn’t rock-climbing, precisely, but
it was close enough. Reyes didn’t want to find out how this would go without
something to hold onto. “What about you? Want me to take a turn carrying
“Nah.” Sara turned back around and gave her hips a
wriggle, shaking the two bundles of hardened polymer slats that were strapped
across her shoulders. “I’m good. Scott and I used to take turns carrying
them, and Dad’s weighed a ton.”
“Yours was an awfully athletic family, wasn’t it?”
Sara chuckled - or maybe she just exhaled loudly. Reyes hadn’t yet sorted through which parts of Sara’s family life were still sore to the touch. This seemed to be one of those memories she hadn’t made up her own mind
about, either. She turned her back and reached for another rock.
“We’re nearly there,” she breathed into the comm.
“We’ll rest at the top.”
“You can’t mean the top.”
Reyes was aghast. “That is a very tall peak, Sara. I can’t even see it
from down here.”
She did laugh, this time; full-throated and gleeful.
“Not the top top. See that
slope?” She pointed with her left hand, and Reyes followed the line of her
arm to an outcropping about twenty metres higher up. It was a steep approach
from where they were, but it gave way to a smooth slope on its western side. “We’ll
go from there.”
Reyes barely made it. He’d always thought he was in pretty
good shape, but the Pathfinder’s lifestyle was turning out to be more than he
was ready for. Sara had made this little trip to Voeld sound much more romantic
and much less exhausting than it had been so far, and Reyes’ legs were wobbling when he
finally clambered up onto the ledge she’d pointed out. She grabbed his forearm
to help him up the final few steps, tumbling back onto her haunches when he was
finally kneeling beside her.
Sara tugged off her helmet and plonked it onto the ground. Her hair spilled across the rock, picking up snowflakes as it
went. Her cheeks were red. She was grinning, but she was breathing hard - and
that helped with Reyes’ embarrassment when he lay down flat on his face. He
pulled his helmet off and lobbed it into the snowdrift behind them.
Sara laughed, the pitch climbing steadily. Her voice turned breathy as she tugged on Reyes’ arm. “Look,” she urged him.
Reyes grumbled as he picked himself up - but in the end, he
was glad he obeyed.
The snowfields spread out below them like a sea of melted
stars. Ice, snow, rock, sky; they were everywhere and nowhere, wrapped in an
orb of pale blue and white. The sun blazed high above them, brilliant but
somehow cold, its pale light bathing everything in a piercing, peaceful glow. Reyes
felt his mouth fall open. He forgot the cold. He forgot the wind. He forgot the
ache in his muscles and the sweat on his skin.
Sara beamed at him, her hand snaking down his arm. Their
gloves made it difficult, but she twined her fingers through his. “Your mouth
She turned his face to hers and kissed him, teasing his
lower lip between her teeth. Reyes could taste ice water on her lips. “Thank
you for coming with me. I haven’t done this since I was a
With that, she slid her burdens off her shoulder. The heavy
slats clacked loudly as she emptied them onto the rock and set about
clicking the pieces together. Reyes watched uncertainly as the first sled
slowly took form. The view was
beautiful, but his awe was quickly fading. Heights were fine. Speed was fine.
Descending a height at speed, though,
without a good pair of wings beneath you - that was insanity.
“I know you said this wasn’t dangerous -”
“- but I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to back
Sara chuckled, and she snapped the next pair of slats
together with glee. “Having second
thoughts? There’s no way you can be
scared of heights.”
“Falling, then?” Her words were punctuated with snaps; clacks; scrapes.
“Seems like a difficult fear for a pilot to have.”
“That’s not it.” Reyes would never have admitted
it, but he wasn’t just uncomfortable. He really was starting to feel scared.
Sara clicked the last component into place, surveying her
work critically. The two sleds were plain, but apparently serviceable, because
she gave a satisfied nod. She tucked her hair under her collar and pulled her
helmet back on, then retrieved Reyes’ from the snowdrift. She handed it back to
him, smiling through her visor - but something in his eyes must have given him
away. Her smile turned soft and careful.
“We don’t have to do this,” she said gently.
“I was glad just to walk up here. It’s beautiful.”
Reyes shook his head. He knew a white lie when he heard one,
so he prised his helmet from her hands. He slid it back on, grateful for the
little hiss that sounded when the latches resealed - because he suddenly needed
a very deep breath.
“We’re up here, aren’t we? Let’s do this.”
Sara’s next smile was a thousand watts. Her movements
quick and careful, like a child sharing her favourite game, she positioned her
sled at the lip of the hill. She sat down atop it with her feet braced against the
forward corners, taking pains to ensure she faced the gentler side of
the incline. Craning over, she patted the snow beside her.
Reyes’ heartbeat was rattling his skeleton. He was definitely
numb, now, but he could feel a throbbing between his shoulder blades. It was probably
just his heart - and it was probably trying to flee.
He dragged his sled over and sat down just like she had. He
copied her stance, but he couldn’t still his shaking hands.
Sara clapped him on the shoulder. “Just stay with
Then she was over the edge - and she was gone, streaking away across the snow
like a probe through a glittering nebula. For the length of half a heartbeat,
Reyes remained frozen.
He pushed his sled forward, and the decision was suddenly
out of his hands. Gravity took over, and he was flying - not really flying, of course; not in the sense that Reyes
always had - but the world was eroded in a blur of ice and snow. His heart
ceased battering against his spine. It clung to it instead, hanging on for dear
life - and Reyes hung on too. He could hear Sara whooping through the comm. He
could hear his blood rushing in his ears -
But there was no sudden disaster; no abrupt but expected
end. His adrenaline ran its course. Gravity ran its course, too, and the world
slowly resumed its shape as Reyes began to slow. He could see Sara waving at
him from the bottom of the hill, helmet once again discarded. She was laughing;
yelling; cheering - and by the time Reyes slid to a halt beside her, he was
“That was great!”
she hollered. She was beaming at him, her cheeks even more flushed than before.
Reyes ripped off his helmet and flung himself into the snow
beside her. “Shit.”
Sara laughed, clambering over him to lie down at his side. A
snowflake landed on his nose, but Sara kissed it away. “Again?”
Ocean-going creatures, related to both Sirens and Arctic Harpies, Timmiaruq are found largely in the Arctic, though in recent years, with the melting sea ice, they have been found landing farther and farther south, which can prove a risk, given their abilities - while Timmiaruq are capable of eating normal food (usually seal cubs or fish which they hunt) they can, if pressed, drain magical energy from others. While this magical energy can be regained with some rest - magic being a form of energy naturally produced and stored in the cells of wixes constantly - it is often so startling a shock to their system many a wix has suffered a heart attack on being exposed to it. Thankfully, it is very rare for Timmiaruq to do this - not only is it a risk for these relatively magically and physically weak creatures to land, they do not gain as much magic as they drain and are at a huge risk when approaching those they seek to drain.
Timmiaruq feathers are often used in potions which might otherwise require Chizpurfle fangs, as a far more potent variant ingredient. Their potency increases the effect of the potion as well as how long the potion will last in storage. Despite all these things however: Timmiaruq are surprisingly weak both physically and magically. Most of their magic is inherent, purely there to maintain their physical abilities - combining bird and human physiology, having functioning wings - with the exception of their ability to eat magic. Physically, most of their strength is in their wings, which they tend to carefully and constantly seek to keep from harm.
(Usage of this image - and other images in the photoset this is from - was kindly given by @sdoodles. The name for this creature and their ability to drain energy were also suggested by them. I hate that I have to include this but PLEASE DO NOT DELETE THE IMAGE SOURCE OR MY CAPTION.)
Legend has it if you chug 7 gallons of melted sea salt ice cream in the GameStop parking lot Tetsuya Nomura appears before you and if you beat him in combat he’ll tell you when Kingdom Hearts III will come out.
Climate Change: Species On The Move: Phytoplankton (InsideClimate News)
A phytoplankton bloom in the Barents Sea, August 2011 (Credit: Jeff Schmaltz/NASA Earth Observatory)
About This Species
Phytoplankton are tiny—almost microscopic—but don’t let that fool you. These free-floating, plant-like organisms occupy the bottom of the ocean’s food chain, making them vital to the ecosystem. They live in the ocean and in sea ice, and like plants on land, phytoplankton need sunlight. Most are buoyant and float in the upper portion of the ocean where sunlight can reach them. They provide food for a wide array of species, like whales, shrimp, snails and jellyfish.
In the Arctic, phytoplankton blooms are triggered by the melting of sea ice in spring. Light green shelves of phytoplankton swirl into the Arctic Ocean. As the climate changes and the oceans warm, the timing of phytoplankton blooms is shifting and the species are showing up in different places altogether. As this happens, the effects ripple outward, growing in significance along the way.
Warmer oceans are already resulting in earlier blooms. A new study in the journal Science found that for every degree that the water increased, one species of phytoplankton bloomed four or five days earlier. From 2003 to 2012, the bloom of that one species shifted 20 days earlier—a trend the researchers projected would continue as the oceans warm further.
Many species tie their lifecycles to the timing of the bloom. When phytoplankton blooms earlier, the next level of the food chain—zooplankton—can miss its opportunity to feed on phytoplankton. That mismatch can work its way up to the fish that eat the zooplankton, the seals that eat those fish and the polar bears at the top of the food chain.
In addition, when thick, old sea ice is thinned by warming, sunlight is able to permeate the surface and stimulate phytoplankton to bloom within the ice. What was once a white surface is made dark, which absorbs more energy from the sun and exacerbates warming.
A combination of ocean warming and shifts in ocean circulation and surface conditions has phytoplankton on the move. In the coming century, species will shift northeastward, with major consequences for the ecosystem.
That northeastward shift is happening at a faster rate than previously estimated. A study published in March 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences described the dynamic combination of rising ocean temperatures and changes in ocean circulation and surface conditions that are driving this shift.
The study examined 87 North American phytoplankton species, looking at historical data from 1951-2000 and projections for 2051-2100. It found that 74 percent of the species it studied were moving toward the North Pole at a rate of 8 miles per decade, and that 90 percent were shifting eastward at a rate of 26.5 miles per decade.
“Anthropogenic climate change over the coming century may drive North Atlantic phytoplankton species ranges and communities to move in space, or shift, and cause communities to internally reassemble, or shuffle,” the study says.
Half a decade before he took this trip to the farthest reaches of the north, Andreas Muenchow had his doubts about whether warming temperatures were causing one of the world’s great platforms of ice to melt and fall apart.
He even stood before Congress in 2010 and balked on whether climate change might have caused a mammoth chunk of ice, four times the size of Manhattan, to break off from this floating, 300-square-mile shelf. The University of Delaware oceanographer said he wasn’t sure. He needed more evidence.
But then the Petermann Ice Shelf lost another two Manhattans of ice in 2012, and Muenchow decided to see for himself, launching a project to study the ice shelf intensively.
He was back again in late August, no longer a skeptic. It was hard not to be a believer here at 81 degrees north latitude, where Greenland and Canada very nearly touch. The surface of the bumpy and misshapen ice was covered with pools and puddles, in some cases frozen over but with piercing blue water beneath. Streams carved through the vast shelf, swelling into larger ponds or even small lakes.
Life cannot exist in perfect, sterile, unchanging balance. The only time the universe will be in complete balance is during its heat death, when all reactions have reached equilibrium and there is no longer any free energy. Chaos and entropy are terrifying conceptually, but necessary.
I refuse to believe that a perfect world is a stable world. A stable world is a dead world. A world without change is a stagnant, decaying, wretched world. Maybe in an afterlife, this is different, but in our current, living one? Hard pass.
There is, however, a limit to the amount of change and chaos that life can cope with before it gets overwhelmed. We typically refer to an excess of chaos as a “catastrophe” or a “cataclysm.” When natural disasters strike and cause a massive loss of life, when species are hunted to extinction or ethnic groups are slaughtered en masse, when oil spills ruin a patch of water and sand for years to come, when plagues sweep across the land… these things can overwhelm life, beat it down, and perhaps even destroy it.
And we see this in Egyptian mythology as well. The land of the gods is said to be the land of pure ma’at, perfect balance and justice and order. The land of mankind contains both isfet and ma’at, and a balance must be struck between the two. An excess of isfet, chaos, will lead to the fall of our world and ourselves.