Monday, March 23, 2009

Bear with me ...

Sometimes when you go out on the ice, you get to see the wildlife. Like polar bears! These shots were taken last week by Tom Douglas, during a sampling trip on the Arctic Ocean a few miles offshore from Barrow.

See him there in the distance, at the foot of the rubble ice?

A zoom in of the bear ...

4 comments:

cammyeg said...

Aren't they beautiful...Are they actually endangered yet? I understand they are very close

Dr G said...

I don't believe they are officially on the endangered species list yet. But they are considered a "threatened" species (one step below endangered).

cammyeg said...

What do you consider the biggest threat to the arctic ecosystem? The lack of ice...is not something that will be easily fixed.I understand that even if we were to make immediate changes the damage we've already done will continue to effect the arctic for years. If we were to start now... if the industrial countries were to make it a priority... immediately make changes to protect the arctic (ya right...we can dream though cant we?) what do you think would be the most important change to make?

Dr G said...

The Arctic is far more sensitive to a small increase in temperature than any other place on the planet. I'd say the biggest threat is the overall warmer temperatures which affect not only the ice, but also the land in the Arctic. Permafrost is thawing all over the Arctic. So it is going to affect both marine and terrestrial ecosystems and the delicate balance that Mother Nature has established here. To me, the most important thing that humans need to do is realize our dependence on fossil fuels cannot continue. For those that are still not believers in the climate change scenarios, then you can at least appreciate the economic standpoint. Fossil fuels WILL run out. It takes millions of years to generate a coal seam or an oil deposit or a natural gas field. We use it at a rate thousands of times faster. It is just a matter of who's generation will face that loss of energy source.

It is in our own best interest to be on the forefront of new, sustainable energy technology. Can you imagine the economic boom if we were the first to develop a truly affordable, renewable energy source? The world would be at our proverbial feet. For those of us who do believe climate change is a real and threatening thing, it should be an even bigger catalyst for us to effectively communicate our science to the broader community. That is a big issue right now in my opinion ... the scientists at the forefront of environmental research are often not effective communicators. We need to do a far better job of informing the general public of the unbiased evidence, make our case in a clear and concise way, and get away from trying to sound smart by talking over everyone's heads. No one besides another climate expert cares about the "confidence intervals" on your model or the "boundary conditions" or whatever other jargon a scientist might throw around. Put it in layman's terms and I think the public would be far more willing to make an effort to digest the information, and make an informed decision about the science behind climate change.

Sorry, I'll get off the soapbox now. ;)