Some Greenland polar bears are surviving with very little sea ice


Arctic: A region that falls within the Arctic Circle. The edge of that circle is defined as the northernmost point at which the sun is visible on the northern winter solstice and the southernmost point at which the midnight sun can be seen on the northern summer solstice. The high Arctic is that most northerly third of this region. It’s a region dominated by snow cover much of the year.

Arctic sea ice: Ice that forms from seawater and that covers all or parts of the Arctic Ocean.

Beaufort Sea: This is a southern part of the Arctic Ocean, which lies north of Alaska and Canada. It spans some 476,000 square kilometers (184,000 square miles). Throughout, its average depth is about 1 kilometer (0.6 mile), although one part of it descends to almost 4.7 kilometers.

biologist: A scientist involved in the study of living things.

climate: The weather conditions that typically exist in one area, in general, or over a long period.

climate change: Long-term, significant change in the climate of Earth. It can happen naturally or in response to human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests.

colleague: Someone who works with another; a co-worker or team member.

common ancestor: Also known as shared ancestor. It’s an ancestor that two or more descendants have in common. Two siblings share a parent as a common ancestor. This also applies on the level of species and groups of organisms. Two or more species can share a common ancestor at the genus level. Two or more genera can share a common ancestor at the family level, and so on. Tigers and lions have a common ancestor, as do humans and Neandertals.

conservation: The act of preserving or protecting something. The focus of this work can range from art objects to endangered species and other aspects of the natural environment.

current: A fluid — such as of water or air — that moves in a recognizable direction.

diet: (n.) The foods and liquids ingested by an animal to provide the nutrition it needs to grow and maintain health. Sometimes this is a specific food-intake plan. (v.) To adopt a specific food-intake plan. People may adopt one for religious or ethical reasons, to address food allergies or to control a disease such as high blood pressure or diabetes. They may also adopt one in an effort to lose weight, though this can an unhealthy thing if not done under the guidance of a health professional, such as a physician or registered dietician.

diversity: A broad spectrum of similar items, ideas or people. In a social context, it may refer to a diversity of experiences and cultural backgrounds. (in biology) A range of different life forms.

extinction: The permanent loss of a species, family or larger group of organisms.

fjord: A long, narrow inlet with steep sides, created in a valley carved by glacial activity.

genetic diversity: The range of genes types — and traits — within a population.

glacier: (adj. glacial) A slow-moving river of ice hundreds or thousands of meters deep. Glaciers are found in mountain valleys and also form parts of ice sheets.

greenhouse gas: A gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect by absorbing heat. Carbon dioxide is one example of a greenhouse gas.

Greenland: The world’s largest island, Greenland sits between the Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic. Although it is technically part of North America (sitting just east of Northern Canada), Greenland has been linked more politically to Europe. Indeed, Vikings arrived in Greenland around the 10th century, and for a time the island was a colony of Denmark. Ice covers roughly 80 percent of Greenland. Indeed, the Greenland ice sheet is the world’s largest. If its frozen water were to melt, it could raise sea levels around the world by 6 meters (about 20 feet). Although this is the 12th biggest nation (based on surface area), Greenland averages the fewest people per square kilometer of its surface area. 

Hudson Bay: An immense inland sea, meaning it has salt water and connects to the ocean (the Atlantic to the east). It spans 1,230,000 square kilometers (475,000 square miles) within east-central Canada, where it is nearly surrounded by land in Nunavut, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Much of this relatively shallow sea lies south of the Arctic Circle, so its surface remains ice-free from roughly mid-July to October.

ice sheet: A broad blanket of ice, often kilometers deep. Ice sheets currently cover most of Antarctica. An ice sheet also blankets most of Greenland. During the last glaciation, ice sheets also covered much of North America and Europe.

indigenous: Native to some region. (in anthropology) An adjective (and capitalized) for people that have lived for eons in some region, developing a culture that reflects the resources, climate and ecosystems of that place.

Inuit: (pronounced IN-oo-it) A group of native — or Indigenous — people who live in the high Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland and the United States.

latitude: The distance from the equator measured in degrees (up to 90). Low latitudes are closer to the equator; high latitudes are closer to the poles.

median: (in mathematics) The value or quantity that lies at the midpoint of a group of numbers that had been listed in order from lowest to highest.

mélange: The term for something that consists of a mix or combination of things.

meltwater: The water that comes from melting ice. The quantities can be large and show up quickly when it comes from melting glaciers, ice sheets and snow-capped mountains.

nutrient: A vitamin, mineral, fat, carbohydrate or protein that a plant, animal or other organism requires as part of its food in order to survive.

population: (in biology) A group of individuals (belonging to the same species) that lives in a given area.

primary: An adjective meaning major, first or most important.

refuge: Some place that provides safety, such as protection from danger, discomfort or pursuit. For instance, a cave could provide refuge from the storm.

resident: Some member of a community of organisms that lives in a particular place. (Antonym: visitor)

risk: The chance or mathematical likelihood that some bad thing might happen. For instance, exposure to radiation poses a risk of cancer. Or the hazard — or peril — itself. (For instance: Among cancer risks that the people faced were radiation and drinking water tainted with arsenic.)

sea: An ocean (or region that is part of an ocean). Unlike lakes and streams, seawater — or ocean water — is salty.

species: A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.

subsistence: An adjective to describe a diet or lifestyle that depends on using the natural environment to supply the basic needs of life — including all nutrients. This is in contrast to agriculture, which controls the land and what goes into it so that certain foods or animals will be raised to supply the needs of a community or society.

unique: Something that is unlike anything else; the only one of its kind.



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