A paper published in Science finds a unique group of polar bears living on the southeast coast of Greenland have found a way to cope with dwindling sea ice by hunting on freshwater ice that comes from glaciers on land. The freshwater ice falls off in chunks into fjords, where the pieces join together and make a floating platform the polar bears use to stalk seals. The research suggests this new subgroup of polar bears could cope with the accelerating loss of sea ice, but warns the bears could also mark the last survivors of the polar bear species.
The Arctic has lost about a third of its winter sea ice in the last two decades, and it continues to melt at a rate of about 13 percent each decade. The way that the newly discovered pack of polar bears has found a way to live suggests freshwater glacial ice could serve as a limited climate refuge for other bears in the future. But the researchers caution there are few regions with abundant freshwater ice and that ice will become increasingly vulnerable if the planet keeps heating up. (AP, The Verge, Vox, NPR, CNN, The Guardian, Reuters, The Atlantic, Washington Post $, New York Times $, Wall Street Journal $)