What is climate change? Climate change is a change in the typical or average weather of a region or city. For example, this could be a change in a region’s average annual rainfall or a change in a city’s average temperature for a given month or season.
Climate change also refers to a change in the Earth’s overall climate. For example, the earths average temperature or precipitation patterns. Below is a graph which shows the start and end of the sea ice melt season, from the years 1979-2015. You can see that the length of melt season has increased dramatically over the past 30 years.
During the winter months, polar bears not only have to hunt for their food and find mates to reproduce with, (often fighting off other males in the process) they are now facing the challenge of losing up to six weeks of sea ice every year. Over the last 30 years, temperatures have warmed so much so that the sea ice is now forming three weeks later and melting three weeks sooner. This also forms another challenge for polar bears which are now forced to swim more often and for longer distances to find food. Although polar bears are strong swimmers, it requires a lot of energy therefore burns a lot of calories which they reply on for survival. On multiple documented occasions a mother polar bear has started a swim (searching for food or pack ice) with two cubs; but ended the swim with just one cub due to the swim being too exhausting for the young cub.
Communities along the James Bay and Hudson Bay are also feeling the effects the climate change. Large scale flooding during the spring due to the ice rapidly melting creates large ice floats that block portions of the river, causing it to over flow. The flooding is so severe that it causes entire communities to be evacuated from their homes and stay in surrounding communities further south. The flooding has caused so much damage that people are still living in other communities from the flood the previous year. These communities are also now seeing polar bears coming into town, which was not a problem 30 years ago. Due to the changes in sea ice polar bears are forced closer to humans in their search for food, often ending up in garbage dumps.
Climate change is not always a positive topic, but what we can do to in our daily lives to help out is! After all what would we do without polar bears? Find out tomorrow on Day 5 of Polar Bear Week at the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat.