Climate Change Is Killing Reindeer at an Alarming Rate

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Researchers in Arctic Russia are anticipating another mass starvation among Arctic reindeer this winter, making it the third such famine in the last ten years. Thanks, climate change.

Since 2006, 80,000 reindeer—20,000 in 2006 and another 61,000 in 2013—have starved to death due to unusual weather patterns caused by global warming, and, judging by weather patterns from this fall, scientists at the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland are projecting another mass starvation this winter.

Arctic sea ice retreats and unseasonally warm temperatures topple the region with heavy rains. This rain then freezes over the old snow, creating a thick layer of ice, often up to several tens of centimeters thick, completely cutting off the reindeers’ food supply of lichen and other vegetation.

This September saw the second-lowest level of sea ice over on record in the region, and scientists fear another famine is on its way.

“If we see such events again this year, it could mean that they’re becoming more frequent,” says Bruce Forbes, a researcher at the the University of Lapland. ““Now is the risk window, and if it happens again, it will be a major problem for traditional reindeer herders still suffering from losses in 2013,” Forbes told the New Scientist.

And if traditional reindeer herders continue suffering, who’s gonna pull Santa’s sleigh? Who’s gonna appear alongside Tim Allen in the 30th installment of The Santa Clause? A moose sure as hell won’t do.

Tom is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.

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