An alarmingly large number of penguins could be starving due to unusually cold waters in the southern hemisphere, according to scientists interviewed by the Associated Press. “What worries us this year is the absurdly high number of penguins that have appeared dead in a short period of time,” said Thiago do Nascimento, a biologist at Brazil’s Peruibe Aquarium, referring to 500 penguins found dead in the last 10 days alone on three beaches in Sao Paulo state.
Autopsies on several penguins show their stomachs to be entirely empty, pointing to starvation as a cause of death. The scientists speculate that frigid waters in the southern hemisphere, exacerbated by overfishing, may have deprived the penguins of food, forcing them to travel to warmer waters in search of sustenance.
The Antarctic has been in the throes of a long term cooling period that has seen the southern polar cap get progressively colder for decades. In 2002, scientists Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon at Harvard warned that the cooling that was then occurring in the Antarctic was leading to the starvation of penguin chicks. The Antarctic cooling with a resulting growth in sea ice — a cooling that proved wrong the warming predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – was disrupting penguin populations, forcing them to migrate to more hospitable surroundings.
Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and author of The Deniers.
Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post, July 20, 2010