For the past three years, no penguin chick has hatched at Hailey Bay, Antarctica’s second-biggest breeding ground for emperor penguins located in the Weddel Sea.
Scientists blame the sharp decline in climate conditions that lead to breaking apart the ‘fast-ice’, the sea ice that’s connected to the land, the ideal spot for emperor penguins to breed.
Antarctica’s charismatic emperor penguins are vulnerable to climate change because warming waters are melting the sea ice where they live and breed. Now, the Penguins have abandoned one of their biggest colonies after breeding pairs there failed to raise almost any new chicks in three years. Scientists say that this occurrence is a huge blow to the penguin species and will affect in the long-term. Though the penguins will get more chances to breed, it is a source of concern since Weddel sea was thought to be relatively insulated from the dramatic changes to the ice happening elsewhere around the continent.
Emperor penguins need sea ice that remains solid for most of the year while they find mates, breed and raise their chicks. Starting in 2015, sea ice there has been disrupted by powerful storms driven by El Nino, the periodic warming of the Pacific ocean that alters Global weather patterns.
The catastrophe occurred in 2016 in Antartica’s Weddel sea. Scientists say that the colony at the edge of the Brunt Ice Shelf has collapsed with adult birds showing no sign of trying to re-establish the population. It would naturally be pointless for them to try as a giant iceberg is about to disrupt the site. The Brunt population which sustains about 25,000 breeding pairs, disappeared overnight. The penguins somehow understood that the place was just not good enough to be their home.
Research suggests that the species might lose anywhere between 50% and 70% of its global population by the end of the century if sea-ice is reduced to the extent that computer models predict.