Thursday, May 15, 2008

Poor Bear

The polar bear is now listed as a protected species, kind of. I was actually sort of surprised by this decision, given the administration's determination to block it, and having seen this article stating that the research data was so flawed that it could not be used in support of such a decision. The article in the NY Times, though, makes it pretty clear that there are a number of loopholes in this decision that may cause it to be less helpful for the bear than it could have been.

“The administration acknowledges the bear is in need of intensive care,” Ms. Siegel said. “The listing lets the bear into the hospital, but then the 4(d) rule says the bear’s insurance doesn’t cover the necessary treatments.”

Also, take a look at the interactive graphic posted with the story. This was first published last October; the minimum extent of northern polar ice is measured in September each year. I remember being blown away by this. The inner dotted line represents perennial ice- ice that has always been there, never observed to melt. Use the slider in the upper right to see the last few years of minumum ice. An enormous area of perennial ice is simply gone. And from what I've seen (I'll keep an eye out for links), this year is predicted to be worse.

Ice is very reflective; its presence helps keep more ice around, since less sunlight is absorbed and converted to heat. Open water is very unreflective; most sunlight hitting it is absorbed, warming the water. Melting the ice.

Poor Bear.

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