Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Penguin Chicks Frozen by Global Warming?

This January—deep summer in Antarctica—explorer Jon Bowermaster suffered through a five-day stretch of torrential rains on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula. The same cannot be said for thousands of downy penguin chicks.

Epic rains are unusual in Antarctica, even in summer, said Bowermaster, who had been in the region on an expedition funded in part by the National Geographic Society's Expeditions Council.

With daytime temperatures above freezing, the rains soaked young Adélie and gentoo penguins not yet equipped with water-repellent feathers. At night, when the mercury dipped below freezing, the wet chicks froze.

"Many, many, many of them—thousands of them—were dying," Bowermaster said.

The experience, he added, painted a clear and grim picture of the impact of global climate change.

"It's not just melting ice," he said. "It's actually killing these cute little birds that are so popular in the movies."

The freezing of chicks is just one example of how human activity is endangering about two thirds of all penguin species.

Source: National Geographic News

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