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We’re making it tough for Santa Claus
by -- December 21st, 2015

It used to be that young children wondered about the reality of Santa Claus. Would Santa show up on Christmas Eve?  And parents turned the whole controversy to good ends by threatening us that Santa would not show up unless we were good.

These days, kids have a lot more to worry about for Santa Claus. The North Pole is a lot warmer than it was a few decades ago, thanks to the ongoing global warming that we are causing.  The arctic sea ice is a lot thinner than it used to be, and there’s a good chance that Santa’s sleigh will break through the ice and sink in the cold arctic waters.

Reindeer populations are in steep decline over much of the arctic landscape.   Santa may be able to keep his team healthy for a few more years, but when he needs some replacements, reindeer may be hard to find.   I’ve heard that Dasher has had a few bouts of arthritis.

And forest ecologists, using remote sensing to monitor forest health, report that northern spruce and fir forests have been burning more frequently as a result of hotter, dry summers. The spruce budworm has also attacked a lot of trees. These changes in the environment could lead to a real shortage of Christmas trees for Santa.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, but we better watch out for Santa, the elves, and the reindeer or we’ll not hear those hooves on the rooftop.

 

References

Bastille-Rousseau, G. , J.A. Schaefer, S.P. Mahoney and D.L. Murray. 2013.  Population decline in semi-migratory caribou (Rangifer tarandus): intrinsic or extrinsic drivers?   Canadian Journal of Zoology 91: 820-828.

Calef, M.P., A. Varvak, A.D. McGuire, F.S. Chapin and K.B. Reinhold. 2015. Recent changes in annual area burned in interior Alaska: the impact of fire management.  Earth Interactions 19: 1-17.

Joly, K., D.R. Klein, D.L. Verbyla, T.S. Rupp and F.S. Chapin. 2011. Linkages between large-scale climate patterns and the dynamics of Arctic caribou populations.  Ecography 34: 345-352.

Kelly, R., M.L. Chipman, P.E. Higuera, I. Stefanova, L.B. Brubaker and F.S. Hu. 2013. Recent burning of boreal forests exceeds fire regime limits of the past 10,000 years.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110: 13055-13060.

Kwok, R., and N. Untersteiner. 2011. The thinning of Arctic sea ice.  Physics Today 64 (4): 36-41.

Laxon, S.W., K.A. Giles, A.L. Ridout et al., 2013. CryoSat-2 estimates of Arctic sea ice thickness and volume.  Geophysical Research Letters 40: 732-737.

 

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