Polar bears, walruses, and other Arctic wildlife rely on sea ice. Arctic Sea Ice Day calls attention to this vital habitat and what we can do to help conserve it.

© BJ Kirschhoffer/Polar Bears International

6/21/2018 2:24:24 PM

10 Facts About Arctic Sea Ice

By Barbara Nielsen, Director of Communications

Join us in counting down to Arctic Sea Ice Day, July 15th! We founded this day to draw attention to sea ice loss in the Arctic, why it matters, and how we can help.

Why should we care about sea ice? Here are 10 facts about this remarkable part of the Arctic ecosystem:

  1. Sea ice is as important to the Arctic ecosystem as soil is to a forest. The food chain begins with algae and other tiny organisms that live on and within the sea ice. Arctic cod feed on them. Seals eat Arctic cod. And polar bears prey on seals.
  2. Polar bears rely on sea ice to efficiently catch their seal prey. The polar bear's main prey, the ringed seal, relies on sea ice, too—for giving birth to and raising their pups.
  3. Arctic sea ice is important to people living in the North and to our global climate. In fact, the Arctic is sometimes called the earth's air conditioner because the sea ice helps cool the planet by reflecting some of the sun's light and heat back into space.
  4. Less sea ice means more heat is absorbed into the ocean. Just as a heart circulates blood and regulates the body’s temperature, the ocean controls the world’s climate system by circulating heat, moisture, and nutrients around the planet. Disruptions in this system, such as extra heat, have global impacts and can lead to more frequent and extreme weather events around the world.
  5. Arctic sea ice is declining in both extent and thickness due to human-caused climate change. Just as a warm summer's day melts the ice in a glass of water, a warming planet causes Arctic sea ice to melt.
  6. Declines in the amount of sea ice means less heat is reflected away from the earth. Instead, more exposed ocean absorbs additional heat, further warming the planet and disrupting the climate.
  7. Despite year-to-year variation, satellite data show that the September sea ice extent has declined more than 13.4% per decade since the satellite record began in 1979. That's a loss more than 2.5 times the size of Texas!
  8. Scientists say we have entered a new era with sea ice. Today there is more thinner, seasonal ice in some parts of the Arctic rather than thicker, multi-year ice. This young ice is much more vulnerable to rapid melting.
  9. Without action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the probability of ice-free summers in the Arctic increases significantly from the middle to the end of this century. This will greatly reduce the polar bear's ability to hunt during the summer months, reduce ice seal abundance, and impact people and wildlife around the world.
  10. It's not too late to save Arctic sea ice! One way we can work together is by encouraging the shift to renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Not only will this help reduce the carbon emissions that are causing the planet to warm and the sea ice to melt, it will also create jobs, strengthen the economy, and improve the overall environment and our health.

Visit our Arctic Sea Ice Day page to learn more about how you can help #saveourseaice.

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