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Melting Antarctic ice is killing emperor penguin chicks

Scientists have recorded an "unprecedented breeding failure" in an Antarctic region called the Bellingshausen Sea. There was a total loss of sea ice in 2022, and not a single emperor penguin chick survived at 5 known breeding sites. The rapid break-up of sea ice plunged the chicks into the water, where they drowned or froze to death.

Sea Ice and Emperor Penguins

Sea ice covers about 9% of the ocean and forms, grows, and melts entirely in the ocean. Emperor penguins are dependent on sea ice to breed, feed, moult, and hide from predators. Sea ice levels are plummeting in Antarctica due to climate change. As of August 2023, they're at a record low for the time of year.

Impact of Climate Change on Emperor Penguins

Scientists say that at the current rate, 98% of emperor penguins are at risk of extinction. Almost all colonies will be quasi-extinct by 2100. In the Arctic, ice-free summers are now inevitable in coming decades, even if greenhouse gas emissions decline.

Polar Regions as a Climate Change Early Warning System

The North and South Poles are a climate change "early-warning system," say scientists. The Arctic is warming at 4 times the global rate. Parts of the Antarctic have warmed nearly 3℃ since the 1970s. 9 of the 16 climate "tipping points" are in polar regions.

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