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This article is from the In-Depth Report Science and the Holidays
60-Second Earth

Santa in Danger: Polar Meltdown

The ice is melting across the Arctic—and Antarctica is starting to thaw, too. David Biello reports

[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]

The North Pole is melting, and there's very little Santa can do about it. No matter how green his elves are.

It's worse for the Inuit people, polar bears, walruses, and a host of less charismatic residents of the far north. Inuit leaders repeatedly deliver warnings about dwindling caribou herds, ground collapsing from beneath villages and ice too thin to hunt on. This disappearing ice is the very reason polar bears are now listed as an endangered species.

Thin ice also allowed the first commercial ship, the MV Camilla Desgagnes to traverse the fabled Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in September, delivering cargo to Inuit villages. It is a feat, long sought after (and died over) by European Arctic explorers—but it's not good news for Arctic residents.

The South Pole isn't faring much better. The Antarctic Peninsula is among the fastest warming locations in the world and, according to the European Space Agency, the enormous Wilkins Ice Shelf is in imminent danger of collapse, much like the Larsen ice shelf fragmented a few years back. That's bad news for global sea levels as well as would-be ice dwellers.

In future, Santa's reindeers may need water wings.

—David Biello

60-Second Earth is a weekly podcast from Scientific American. Subscribe to this Podcast: RSS | iTunes

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