A new study published yesterday saysAntarctica’s Adelie penguins could face a disastrous population decline if global warmingwere to affect the continent. When? By 2099. There’s two big problems: Antarctica’s ice cover isactually growing in size, making the continent larger. And it’s based on computer models, which are notoriously prone to error and rarely, if ever, give accurate results. Imagine shooting a bullet from New York to Los Angeles and hitting a pin-sized bullseye on the side of a moving truck. That’s the difficulty with forecasting a region’s climate 83 years from now. Let alone a particular penguin’s population.
Because Adelie penguins populate the continent’s entire coastline, the researchers focused only on West Antarctica, which has seen marginal warming since satellite tracking began in 1979. Interestingly, Adelie penguins rely on bare-rock locations for breeding and chick rearing, so increased sea ice is actually more detrimental to their well-being.
The study used various computer models and the UN IPCC’s climate computer simulations to come up with these new results. In its latest assessment report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) created numerous scenarios, from not too bad to the very worst. The new studyshows that there might be a 60 percent loss in penguin populations when the IPCC’s Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 was fed into the simulation. But as another study pointed out, global warming is not progressing at the rate suggested by even the worst-case scenarios released by the IPCC.
But Antarctica, like other land masses surrounded by water, isn’t melting like the IPCC predicted or scientists assumed. It’s actually growing. That can also be a problem as Adelie penguins like to breed on rocky outcroppings. Warming periods in the past have actually helped the Adelie populations to grow as more bare rock was exposed.