Climate crisis: This species of penguins risk extinction as sea ice declines

Antarctica‘s iconic symbol, the emperor Penguins is at the risk of ‘quasi extinction’ due to the abrupt reduction in sea ice. According to a study published Thursday by researchers from the British Antarctic Survey, colonies of emperor penguins failed to breed at a level never seen before in Antarctica. The study predicted that 90% of the emperor penguins “will be quasi-extinct” by the end of the century under the current global warming trajectory.

Emperor penguins are entirely dependent on sea ice for breeding, the satellite imagery showed that none of the penguin chicks are likely to have survived, as four out of the five breeding sites in the region were abandoned as the ice began to retreat well before the babies usually develop waterproof feathers.

Emperor penguins need stable sea ice that’s firmly attached to the shore to breed and nurture their young from April to January. Penguins lay eggs in Antarctic winter from May to June at their breeding sites, but the chicks do not fledge until at least December. Emperor penguins hatch their eggs and raise their chicks on the ice that forms around the continent each Antarctic winter and melts in the summer months.

The study claimed that in some regions west of the Antarctic Peninsula, 100% of the sea ice had melted away in November 2022.


With the planet already 1.2C warmer since pre-industrial times, an area of ice larger than the size of Greenland is already missing in Antarctica. Scientists have become increasingly alarmed by how the Antarctic ice has struggled to grow back after hitting an all-time low in February — a deviation so extreme from the normal that it’s been dubbed a “Six Sigma event,” or once-in-a-7.5-million-year phenomenon. Besides, scientists have projected that Arctic summers could be ice-free as soon as the 2030s.

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Updated: 25 Aug 2023, 10:02 AM IST