Is Christmas in crisis? Swedish herders say there is not enough snow for reindeer to start their annual Arctic migration
- Sweden experienced fluctuations that caused abnormal cycle of thaw-freeze
- Without the snow typically seen this time of year, herders had to delay their work
- It comes as a new WMO report warns 2018 is among the hottest years on record
Reindeer in the Arctic, along with the herders who rely on them for income, have already begun to feel the effects of climate change.
The indigenous Sami people in Sweden say abnormal temperature fluctuations in the region have disrupted this year’s migration, according to NBC News.
Snow plays a key role in reindeer migration, and is crucial for herders’ ability to track their movement – but without snow, they’ve been forced to postpone their activities.
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Reindeer in the Arctic, along with the herders who rely on them for income, have already begun to feel the effects of climate change. File photo
It isn’t just warm temperatures throwing a wrench in their plans this year, local herders say.
Instead, the region has experienced fluctuations above and below freezing so far, causing an unusual cycle of freezing and thawing.
While the Sami people typically corral reindeer over a two-week period in November, this year’s weather has gotten in the way.
‘Something is really wrong with nature,’ 37-year-old herder Niila Inga told NBC.
‘I can’t ask my father what to do now because he hasn’t seen this; it hasn’t happened during his lifetime.’
Reindeer herders gather the animals and kill them for meat during September, leaving the remaining reindeer to graze in the area until winter migration, according to NBC.
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When the time comes for the reindeer to move, the herders follow them on snowmobiles. But, without snow, there’s no way for them to do that.
Sweden’s unusual weather comes as the World Meteorological Organization revealed 2018 will be among the hottest years on record.
Snow plays a key role in reindeer migration, and is crucial for herders’ ability to track their movement – but without snow, they’ve been forced to postpone their activities. File photo
According to the new WMO report, this year will sit at number four.
The findings also mean that ‘the past four years – 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 – are also the four warmest years in the series,’ the report says.
Experts warn we’ll likely fall short of warming targets.
HOW IS GLOBAL WARMING AFFECTING GLACIAL RETREAT?
Global warming is causing the temperatures all around the world to increase.
This is particularly prominent at latitudes nearer the poles.
Rising temperatures, permafrost, glaciers and ice sheets are all struggling to stay in tact in the face of the warmer climate.
As temperatures have risen to more than a degree above pre-industrial levels, ice continues melt.
For example, melting ice on the Greenland ice sheet is producing ‘meltwater lakes’, which then contribute further to the melting.
This positive feedback loop is also found on glaciers atop mountains.
Many of these have been frozen since the last ice age and researchers are seeing considerable retreat.
Some animal and plant species rely heavily on the cold conditions that the glaciers provide and are migrating to higher altitudes to find suitable habitat.
This is putting severe strain on the ecosystems as more animals and more species are living in an ever-shrinking region.
On top of the environmental pressure, the lack of ice on mountains is vastly increasing the risks of landslides and volcanic eruptions.
The phenomena is found in several mountain ranges around the world.
It has also been seen in regions of Antarctica.
And, the Arctic is often hardest hit by climate changes.
‘Greenhouse gas concentrations are once again at record levels and if the current trend continues we may see temperature increases 3-5°C by the end of the century,’ said WMO Secretary-General Patteri Taalas.
‘If we exploit all known fossil fuel resources, the temperature rise will be considerably higher,” he said.
‘It is worth repeating once again that we are the first generation to fully understand climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it.’
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