Hot and Cold: a Current Issue

Luke Adelhoch, Staff Writer

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Most people are aware of just how dangerous climate change is for the environment. However, most people immediately think of the danger it presents to polar animals such as polar bears and penguins. While the poles of the earth are probably some of the environments that are at the highest risk from climate change, it is a worldwide menace that has significant effects on life on the oceans as well. This is due to how it changes currents. The melting of ice changes the flow of the ocean currents. These currents control the temperature and flow of nutrients within the ocean. As such, they also control the quantity and location of marine life all over the world.

One effect is the migration patterns of baleen whales, large plankton feeders such as minke, gray, and humpback whales. One such specimen, believed to be of the humpback variety, was spotted in the East River in New York on New Year’s Eve. Another was spotted just off the Jersey Shore shortly after, although it is unclear if it was the same specimen. This is one of many whales that has been spotted around the New York Harbor as of late. Usually, they would have migrated to the warm waters of the Dominican Republic in winter. However, climate change has made New York’s waters warm enough to keep whales there rather than moving further south as is usual.

While seeing a humpback whale in person is certainly a magical experience, most of the effects global warming has had on our oceans are not so good. For example, the lobsters and fish of New England have been fleeing the waters made cold by shifting currents, looking for warmer homes to the north. Seafood has always been an important part of the foods and economy of the area, with lobsters even being an important part of the diet of the Pilgrims and having remained a staple ever since. With the lobsters and fish leaving the area, the impact on the region could be terrible. Since the animals are leaving for northern waters, a vital part of the New England economy will be crippled as fishermen either move or lose their jobs to climate change.

It is not just the United States of America that faces issues from climate change. One needs only to look at the Salish Sea, an area off the coast of Vancouver, Canada. It is here that the world’s oldest killer whale, Granny, lived. Recently, Granny has gone missing and is unfortunately believed to be dead. While this could be a simple result of old age, like the world’s oldest panda (Jia Jia, who died at 38), there is another far more troubling and equally likely possibility: starvation. The salmon that the local killer whales feed on have been dwindling due to the changing temperature of the waters they call home. They either leave or suffer. Without these salmon, the local killer whales will certainly starve. And of course, it is the old that end up dying first. Granny was a tough whale who survived several captures and lived for more years than any of her kind. It would be a great tragedy if she has truly passed away.

It’s safe to say that climate change is just as dangerous under the sea as it is above it. The sea level rising is not the only problem- it’s also that the sea itself is changing. And when the sea is so unstable, all animals are in danger. Whales are staying in foreign places full of dangerous boats and tankers. The marine life that has sustained New England for generations is leaving. The world’s most long-lived marine animals are dying due to the changes brought on by the changing currents. We need to do everything we can to prevent climate change and keep our entire planet safe, even the places we can’t live in.

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