Melting Away Walters, Jennifer Marino Scholastic News (Ed. 4) 12-07-2009 Summer sea ice is quickly disappearing in the frigid Arctic The frigid Arctic region has been heating up in recent years. Scientists point to global warming - a gradual increase in Earth's average temperature. The Arctic is virtually covered in ice year-round, but Arctic sea ice is beginning to disappear during the summer months (see map). This melting is endangering animals that rely on sea ice, such as the Pacific walrus. Disappearing ice results in walruses gathering in large numbers on land. This puts the walruses at greater risk of attack by predators. Walruses cannot escape them very easily on land. Walruses also cannot hunt with ease for the seafood they eat. Gathering in large numbers on land also puts calves, or young walruses, in danger. For example, U.S. Geological Survey researchers recently reported that a herd of 3,500 walruses was onshore on the northern coast of Alaska. More than 130 calves were killed when the herd became frightened and stampeded into the water. "The deaths of these walruses is another wake-up call that we will lose the Arctic if we continue on our current course," says Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. Warming Up Scientists say fighting global wanning is key. They say the biggest cause of global warming is the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. People bum these fuels to power cars, homes, and factories. The burning causes gases like carbon dioxide to be released into the air. The gases trap the warmth of the sun in the atmosphere. The increase in temperature is a few degrees on average. It is not only melting the summer Arctic sea ice, but scientists say it is also causing glaciers around the world to thaw, putting many people and animals at risk. A study by scientists in India finds that glaciers in India's Kashmir mountains are melting too quickly. This threatens the water supply of millions of people in the Himalayan region. For example, the largest of Kashmir's glaciers, the Kolahoi, has shrunk by more than half a square mile in the past 40 years. That's about the size of 243 football fields. The Kolahoi feeds Kashmir's Jhelum River, which is needed for farming. Glaciers also are melting in the Swiss Alps. Scientists there say 12 percent of Alps glacier ice melted between 1999 and 2008. They have found that as the glaciers melt, pollutants trapped in them are being released into nearby Alpine lakes. Scientists say this could endanger people who use the lakes to fish and to water crops. Looking Ahead Scientists and world leaders are trying to come up with ways to stop global warming. If nothing changes, the Arctic will be almost free of summer ice within 10 years, say scientists with the Catlin Arctic Survey. It may be completely free of summer ice within 20 to 30 years. For now, officials are deciding whether to classify the Pacific walrus as an endangered species. This would require the U.S. to officially protect the walrus. The polar bear, an Arctic neighbor of the walrus, was put under similar protection last year. "The rapid change under way in the Arctic shows that time is running . . . short," says Wolf. "[But] we can still [avoidl some of the most serious global-warming impacts." Citation for your reference: Walters, Jennifer Marino. "Melting Away." Scholastic News (Ed. 4). 07 Dec. 2009: 4. eLibrary. Web. 25 Jan. 2011. Walters, Jennifer Marino. "Melting Away." Scholastic News (Ed. 4). 07 Dec. 2009: 4.