Rare Whale Sighting Linked to Shrinking Ice

The extent of ice covering the Arctic has reached a new record low, and more is likely to melt over the next few weeks.

Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center report that this year’s ice coverage is down to 1.58 million square miles. That surpasses the September 2007 record of 1.61 million square miles. This year’s ice will likely shrink even more, as the minimum ice extent usually takes place in mid to late September. While this year’s shrinking ice is record worthy, keep in mind that reliable data only goes back to 1979.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) confirmed today that a Bowhead Whale was spotted in the waters off of Cape Cod in March. Bowhead Whales are native to the Arctic, so this year’s sighting off of Orleans was the farthest south that the species has been documented.

Dr. Cynthia Tynan, a PCCS scientist, says that Bowhead Whales are particularly sensitive to climate change. She says changes in the thickness, and extent, of Arctic ice is likely impacting their migration patterns. Tynan believes that the ice changes, and an unseasonably warm winter and spring likely drove the wayward whale south.